Thursday, March 30, 2006

Police investigate 121 abandoned monkey skulls

monkey skulls
The police found 121 deserted monkey skulls on March 27 in Tanshan Ling Town in Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous Region in Gansu Province, Lanzhou Morning Post reported. The investigation is still ongoing.

All the monkey skulls are cut off above the eyebrow. It has been suspected that the criminals slaughtered the monkeys with electronic saws, since the edges were so clean-cut.

On March 25, a farmer happened to discover these deserted skulls as he passed Dawankou area. He then reported to the local police immediately.

On-spot investigations by the police revealed several bags filled with monkey skulls. The unclosed bags were supposed to have been abandoned on a bank of a river in Dawankou. A river flow may have washed away some of the skulls, the police said.

Painful face expressions are still prominent in these skulls, one of which even retained its hair and mustache.

This unusual case has already attracted much attention from the local police, since monkeys had never been found in the county. In addition, Dawankou is a virtually inhabited area which only several highways pass through. So the officers aren't sure where the monkey skulls are from.

The local police have already reported the cruel case to superior departments. Experts will have a further identification for the monkey skulls shortly.

Story here.

Brooklyn College Anthropologist Identifies New Prehistoric Monkey

Brooklyn College Associate Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology Alfred L. Rosenberger is part of a team of Argentinean and United States scholars who have identified a new species of monkey that once roamed the forests of South America. The discovery of the monkey species, Killikaike blakei, is the result of painstaking analysis of a small, perfectly preserved monkey skull that was found embedded in volcanic rock by members of an Argentinean ranching family. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

This fossil, which is dated to 16.4 million years ago, is a spectacular addition to the scant fossil record of New World monkeys because of its pristine condition, including a well preserved face and intact teeth. The unusually fine condition of the skull, which belonged to a young female of the species, enables scientists to determine the monkey's position within the evolutionary history of South and Central American primates. The new genus and species belongs to a group that includes the modern squirrel and capuchin monkeys, highly social, gregarious, large-brained primates that are uniquely adapted to foraging for insects that are often hidden or embedded in bark. The brain of Killikaike blakei is notable because it is larger than those of contemporary monkeys of comparable size.

The monkey species is named for Killik Aike Norte, the location in Patagonia where the skull was discovered, and in honor of the Blake family, who donated the skull to the Padre Molina Museum in the nearby city of Rio Gallegos.

Story here.

Monkey fever on the rise in Megaravalli, India; Simian population dwindling

Death of monkeys has been noticed near Megaravalli in Tirthahalli taluk. It is suspected that they might have died due to Kyasanur Forest Disease, popularly known as Monkey Fever.

Taluk Medical Officer Dr H D Veerannavar confirmed that these monkeys died due to KFD. He also said that Health Department had taken all care to prevent its spreading among humans.

Already 1,200 doses of vaccination have been given to the people. People have been asked to alert the Department if they notice death of monkeys in 5 kms radius from Megaravalli.

So far, nine cases of KFD on people have been recorded in the current year. Proper treatment has already been given to them, he said. One case reported in Andagere village was referred to Government Mc Gann Hospital for higher treatment.

Story here.

Saint Louis Zoo Euthanizes Elder Orangutan

One of the St. Louis Zoo's most popular orangutans, and its oldest primate, has died.

Zoo officials said "Junior" was euthanized Tuesday after his health had been declining. He was thought to be about 44 years old.

Junior was the third-oldest male in the national Orangutan Species Survival Plan population.

Zoo officials said Wednesday that veterinarians had been treating Junior for severe arthritis for three years. In recent weeks, pain medication did not appear to be helping and Junior became reluctant to move and eat.

"It's like losing a really close friend. They share so many characteristics with us and we developed very close bonds," the zoo's primate curator Ingrid Porton said. "It's a very difficult decision to make, but I think we made the right and kind decision."

Junior was born in Sumatra, a western Indonesian island, and came to the U.S. in 1963. He first lived at the Tulsa, Okla., and Memphis, Tenn., zoos.

He came to St. Louis in 1992 as part of the national species survival plan and quickly became a favorite among zoo keepers for his gentle nature.

"You had to prove yourself to Junior and show you were trustworthy," Porton said. "When he let you in his world, you saw what a magnificent guy he was. You wouldn't say that about his female counterpart or some other male orangs."

Story here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Welsh welcome for rescued baboon

A four-year-old baboon rescued from "appalling and abusive" conditions at a Lebanese pet shop is starting a new life in the Swansea Valley.

Lola has been flown to the UK by animal welfare groups to take up residency at the Cefn-yr-Erw Primate Sanctuary.

Rescuers claim she was beaten and forced to eat cigarettes to amuse onlookers before she was released.

She joined more than 50 other primates at the sanctuary near Abercrave earlier this month and is settling in well.

Lola's plight was discovered by animal welfare workers in Beirut, assisting an investigation into the smuggling of chimpanzees.

They said she was close to giving up on life as she was confined to a tiny cage where she was underfed and deprived of a reliable source of water.

Story here.

New Study Shows Chimps Point To Spot They'd Like Groomed

It was once thought that only humans gestured to direct another person's attention, but such "referential" gesturing was recently observed in wild chimpanzees.

John Mitani, University of Michigan anthropology professor, and colleague Simone Pika, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at University of St. Andrews in Scotland, observed male chimps habitually using "directed scratches" to request grooming of specific areas on the body. The findings suggest that our closest living relatives may be capable of mental-state attribution, making inferences about the knowledge of others.

Up until now, scientists saw directed scratching only in captive chimps and language-trained apes who interacted with humans, Mitani said.

"The more we learn, the more we see chimpanzees employing remarkable, seemingly human-like behaviors," Mitani said. "To me that is one of the lessons of this little paper." The findings appear in today's issue of Current Biology, in a paper entitled "Referential Gestural Communication in Wild Chimpanzees."

To reach their conclusions, Pika and Mitani studied the social grooming habits of male chimps in the Ngogo community in Uganda's Kibale National Park. During observation, male chimps routinely scratched a certain spot on themselves in view of their grooming partner, usually in a loud, exaggerated manner. In the majority of cases (64 percent) the groomer responded immediately by stopping and moving to groom the exact spot the gesturer had just scratched, Mitani said.

The behavior appeared frequently between males who formed strong social bonds, and Mitani surmised that further study might reveal that males who do not display such friendly relations do not engage in the behavior as often.

"It's almost as if it's being used selectively by males who know that they are going to obtain a positive response," similar to asking a friend for a favor as opposed to a stranger, Mitani said.

Pika and Mitani observed male chimps because they groom each other more frequently than females do.

Historically, researchers thought animal gestures provide information only about the communicator's emotional state. Referential communication, such as pointing to something in the external environment with the expectation of a specific response from another, was considered beyond the capability of non-human primates in the wild.

However, scientists have known for some time that animals use calls to refer to objects and events in the external world in a seemingly referential fashion, Mitani said. For example, an animal might utter distinct warning sounds to denote different kinds of predators. However, documenting the use of referential gestures in animals has lagged behind, Mitani said.

Story here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Eating and Cow Dung top list for monkey menace strategies

Fed up by an army of monkeys that has made life miserable in rural Uganda, a minister has come out with a simple solution: eat the animal!

Junior Agriculture Minister Israel Kibirige Sebunnya has warned that crops would be wiped out if the problem was not addressed. And he has suggested a novel solution to the problem.

"I wish we could adopt the habit of eating monkeys like they do in West Africa," junior Agriculture Minister Israel Kibirige Sebunnya said here.

From Cameroon to Senegal, monkeys are considered a delicacy. Almost everyone here has a story to tell about the menace monkeys pose.

For Kyanjo Sennyonjo, 78, the long-standing mystery of his continually disappearing dinner was solved when he found his tin-roofed home invaded by monkeys.

"For years, and bear in mind that I am a hunter, I have never seen monkeys stealing cooked food. I thought it was people taking my food," Sennyonjo told DPA at his home at Mairikiti village, some 50 km southeast of Kampala.

The apparent comedy of the case masks a serious problem because human activities in the region further encroach on the primates' traditional habitat. Man and monkey, it seems, make poor bedfellows.

Villager after villager in the region, nestled in the forested hills on the shores of Lake Victoria in rural Uganda, recount similar tales.

The problem seems to be worsening, with the primates moving in large groups, ravaging gardens and devouring all crops in sight including potatoes, beans, maize, yams and bananas.

Villagers have begun a monkey crackdown, mounting guards on gardens, erecting scarecrows and deploying dogs, according to village elder Ibrahim Semanda.

The efforts are largely fruitless.

"When the monkeys are many, they overcome the dogs. Even with scarecrows, the monkeys try to shake their bodies and realizing the objects are not real humans, they relaunch the attacks with more vigour," Semanda said.

Some islands on Lake Victoria, Africa's largest fresh water body, have more monkeys than humans.

Last year, authorities in the island district of Kalangala, an archipelago on the western side of Lake Victoria, introduced a scheme whereby anyone who brings in a monkey's tail receives a reward of 1,000 shillings (about 50 cents).

Bulegeya Komayombo, director for crop protection in the agriculture ministry, however, adopts a more conciliatory approach.

He said that a softer approach like smearing cow dung - detested by the monkeys - on crops like maize is being encouraged.

Story here.

Baby monkey has a new name: "Monkey"

A baby Colobus monkey at New York's Central Park Zoo finally has a name.

More than 23,000 people voted for one of four proposed names.

The winner is...Kima, which is Swahili for monkey. The name won with a 30 percent of the vote.

The name Johnny came in a very close second.

Kima was born 19 days ago to parents Mack and Metalman.

Story here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Homo erectus fossils found for first time in Thailand

Researchers have found remains of Homo erectus, a part-human, part-ape creature, in Thailand for the first time.

Four pieces from the top part of a Homo erectus skull, one of the earliest ancestors of mankind, were unearthed by members of a Thai archaeological expedition.

The fossils were found in 1999 in a cave at a remote phosphate mine in Lampang province, 317 miles north of Bangkok.

This find is the first evidence unearthed of the existence of Homo erectus in Asia outside of China and Indonesia, said Jirapan Attajinda, chief of the National Research Council of Thailand.

The well-known discoveries of Java Man in 1888 and Peking Man in 1929 have provided important evidence in the search for mankind's origins.

These new fossils are at least 500,000 years old according to studies of the earth layer in which they were found, said Somsak Pramankij, a survey team member.

He said the find puts another piece into the incomplete jigsaw puzzle of humanity's origins.

The specimens were examined by Philip Tobias, a renowned anthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

He has eventually confirmed the Thai researchers' belief that they came from a Homo erectus.

The earliest known Homo erectus finds have been in the Rift Valley in east Africa and in South Africa.

Some studies suggest the early Homo erectus became the first two-legged migrants after only a few thousand years of their evolutionary appearance in Africa.

Story here.

Heart attack killed OSU chimp sent to Texas

A chimpanzee who was tranquilized after arriving at a Texas animal refuge died of a heart attack, according to a necropsy report, and not from suffocation as a refuge veterinarian said.

The 250-plus-pound chimp, named Kermit, was among nine chimpanzees transferred from Ohio State University to Primarily Primates, north of San Antonio, earlier this month.

Kermit died March 2 after he was sedated so he could be removed from a traveling cage to a holding pen at the refuge.

The report said the heart attack was associated with pre-existing heart disease, pulmonary congestion and tissue swelling associated with handling. The necropsy did not address tranquilizers in Kermit's body.

It was conducted by a veterinarian at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio.

Ohio State spokesman Earle Holland said it was a coincidence that Kermit died after the tranquilizers were administered.

But Columbus Zoo and Aquarium veterinarian Michael Barrie said the stress of the move and the tranquilizers could produce a heart attack in an animal with a pre-existing problem.

“Sometimes you don't know you have heart disease until you get an episode that stresses it,” Barrie said.

The truck trip to Texas took 38 hours and, after arriving, the animals were kept in the truck for 24 hours.

Story here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A moment of monkey trainer zen...

New Zealand Zoo Auctions Chimps Paintings For "Chimp Day"

chimp artWellington Zoo is holding a Chimp Art Auction in the Archibald Centre on Sunday March 26th at 3pm as part of its Chimp Day celebrations, General Manager, Operations Mauritz Basson announced today.

“Jessie the chimp loves to paint, I hold the canvas for her and she chooses the colours – though not yellow as she tends to eat it,’ said Jo Turton, Wellington Zoo chimp keeper.

“As one of the last chimps to be hand raised at Wellington Zoo, Jessie grew up in the house of the head keeper. It was there that she first picked up a paintbrush,” said Jo.

“On Chimp Day we’ll be auctioning eight of Jessie’s original abstract paintings. We also have framed photo portraits of our chimps, and passes for a special behind the scenes tour of our new chimp block, due to open later this year - amongst other things,” said Jo.

Preceding the auction, Jo will talk about her recent work experience trip to a chimp sanctuary in Uganda. In the week before Christmas, Wellington Zoo visitors donated over $1,200 which Jo delivered to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre.

”Chimp Day is a fun way of celebrating the chimpanzees at Wellington Zoo. We will have a whole lot of chimp based activities going on, and the Popsicle band will be playing,” Mauritz said.

Story here.

Old-World Primates Evolved Color Vision To Better See Each Other Blush

Your emotions can easily be read by others when you blush--at least by others familiar with your skin color. What's more, the blood rushing out of your face when you're terrified is just as telling. And when it comes to our evolutionary cousins the chimpanzees, they not only can see color changes in each other's faces, but in each other's rumps as well.

Now, a team of California Institute of Technology researchers has published a paper suggesting that we primates evolved our particular brand of color vision so that we could subtly discriminate slight changes in skin tone due to blushing and blanching. The work may answer a long-standing question about why trichromat vision (that is, color via three cone receptors) evolved in the first place in primates.

"For a hundred years, we've thought that color vision was for finding the right fruit to eat when it was ripe," says Mark Changizi, a theoretical neurobiologist and postdoctoral researcher at Caltech. "But if you look at the variety of diets of all the primates having trichromat vision, the evidence is not overwhelming."

Reporting in the current issue of the journal Biology Letters, Changizi and his coauthors show that our color cones are optimized to be sensitive to subtle changes in skin tone due to varying amounts of oxygenated hemoglobin in the blood.

The spectral sensitivity of the color cones is somewhat odd, Changizi says. Bees, for example, have four color cones that are evenly spread across the visible spectrum, with the high-frequency end extending into the ultraviolet. Birds have three color cones that are also evenly distributed in the visible spectrum.

The old-world primates, by contrast, have an "S" cone at about 440 nanometers (the wavelength of visible light roughly corresponding to blue light), an "M" cone sensitive at slightly less than 550 nanometers, and an "L" cone sensitive at slightly above 550 nanometers.

"This seems like a bad idea to have two cones so close together," Changizi says. "But it turns out that the closeness of the M and L cone sensitivities allows for an additional dimension of sensitivity to spectral modulation. Also, their spacing maximizes sensitivity for discriminating variations in blood oxygen saturation." As a result, a very slight lowering or rising of the oxygen in the blood is easily discriminated by any primate with this type of cone arrangement.

In fact, trichromat vision is sensitive not only for the perception of these subtle changes in color, but also for the perception of the absence or presence of blood. As a result, primates with trichromat vision are not only able to tell if a potential partner is having a rush of emotion due to the anticipation of mating, but also if an enemy's blood has drained out of his face due to fear.

"Also, ecologically, when you're more oxygenated, you're in better shape," Changizi adds, explaining that a naturally rosy complexion might be a positive thing for purposes of courtship.

Adding to the confidence of the hypothesis is the fact that the old-world trichromats tend to be bare-faced and bare-butted as well. "There's no sense in being able to see the slight color variations in skin if you can't see the skin," Changizi says. "And what we find is that the trichromats have bare spots on their faces, while the dichromats have furry faces."

"This could connect up with why we're the 'naked ape,'" he concludes. The few human spots that are not capable of signaling, because they are in secluded regions, tend to be hairy-such as the top of the head, the armpits, and the crotch. And when the groin occasionally does tend to exhibit bare skin, it occurs in circumstances in which a potential mate may be able to see that region.

"Our speculation is that the newly bare spots are for color signaling."

Story here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Loose African baboon evades captors

A baboon was still on the loose in Wadeville on the East Rand on Friday after evading attempts to capture it, police said.

"The last time he was spotted was around 5.30pm on Thursday in the Wadeville area," Constable Trevor Ackerman said.

Police were relying largely on calls from the public to locate him. His active nature made finding and darting him difficult.

"On Saturday he was in Alberton, on Tuesday at Germiston Lake, then in Lambton and then at a warehouse in Wadeville," Ackerman said.

The fully grown male baboon, weighing about 60kg, has been roaming the East Rand for the past three weeks, spending each night on the roof of a different block of flats.

Police were unable to capture the primate on Thursday.

"We tried to dart it earlier, but we were unsuccessful. We have to dart it in a safe manner because it takes about four minutes for the dart to work.

"It may become aggressive and we don't want to harm the animal or any person," Ackerman said on Thursday.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Germiston has set traps for the baboon on buildings where it has been spotted.

Spokesperson Rob Delport said the SPCA has been trying to capture the animal since Tuesday. It is thought to have escaped from the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve or from a reserve near Pretoria.

"It's possible that he's been kicked out of a group and was searching for a new group and so keeps moving around. He's not really a danger to anyone. We haven't had reports of any injuries caused by him."

Delport warned the public to stay away from the animal. It is believed that people are putting out food for the baboon.

Story here.

Trial drug had affected monkey glands

The drug that left six men seriously ill after its first tests on humans had caused the glands of two monkeys to swell in previous experiments, the company behind it said today.

However, TeGenero said the monkeys' symptoms were completely different to those suffered by the men being treated at Northwick Park hospital, in north-west London.

The company said two of the 20 monkeys used in pre-clinical tests of the TGN1412 drug - designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, leukaemia and multiple sclerosis - had experienced a "transient increase in size of lymph nodes".

In a statement, it said information that there was a small chance of temporary swelling as the drug worked on the immune system had been included in details submitted to UK regulators. The information was also on the consent form signed by the volunteers before the trial began.

"We are encouraged by the progress being made by the volunteers, but remain deeply concerned for all of them as they continue their treatment," Thomas Hanke, the TeGenero chief scientific officer, said.

"Once again we would like to thank the excellent work by the doctors at Northwick Park hospital. We are continuing to do all we can to ensure that the investigations into what went wrong proceed as quickly as possible."

The condition of four of the men is continuing to improve after almost a week in intensive care, their doctors said yesterday.

Three of the four had now been removed from organ support, Ganesh Suntharalingam, the clinical director of intensive care at the hospital, added.

However, he said two other patients remained in a critical condition and said it was still too early to comment on their prognosis despite some early signs of improvement.

Story here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Gorilla Baby Boom Under Way At San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is having a gorilla baby boom.
For the first time in the zoo's history, two gorilla babies were born in the same troop within less than two weeks.

One was born on March 5, and the other on March 14.

Visitors got their first look at the babies on Thursday. Keepers at the zoo have determined that one of the babies is a boy, but do not know the gender of the other one yet.

Story here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sex-starved monkeys are becoming aggressive in park

Rhesus monkeys, especially sex-starved males, are making trouble and attacking people in a wildlife park in Guizhou Province. Some citizens say they should be given contraceptives.

There are far more males than females at the park in southwest China and the extra "lonely heart" males become aggressive, attacking people.

The number of injuries from monkey attacks is increasing, and the primates also have destroyed vegetation and damaged the park's bio-system.

"The park authorities should give the monkeys contraceptive medicine to keep them from reproducing too fast," said Aunti Ren, an animal lover who feeds monkeys every day at Qianling Park in the provincial capital of Guiyang.

The 426-hectare park is experiencing a baby boom of rhesus monkeys. The population has topped 500, compared with 40 in the 1980s, said Bi Jianming, a park official.

Park authorities are soliciting advice from citizens and experts on how to manage the unruly animals.

Seventy-two tourists were assaulted by rhesus monkeys at the park in 2003, and park authorities had to pay more than 12,500 yuan (US$1,562) in medical costs. In 2004, 253 people were injured, costing the park 40,000 yuan.

In 2005, 505 people were hurt by the monkeys, resulting in 84,000 yuan in medical expanses.

Professor Luo Rong at Guizhou Normal University said the ideal park population is 150 and the ideal sex ratio is two and a half females to one male.

But there are not enough female monkeys at the park to match the males and these extra, unloved males become aggressive. They attack humans and fight among themselves, said Luo.

They live on wild fruit on Qianling Mountain for only five months of the year and for the remaining seven months, they rely on zookeepers and tourists to feed them.

Each year, several million tourists flock to Qianling Park to watch the rhesus monkeys.

"It's probably the only place in China where you can stay so close to wild monkeys at an urban park," said Liang Yi, a Beijinger who visits the monkeys on every trip to Guizhou.

Story here.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Monkey gives birth at Pittsburgh Zoo

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on Friday announced the birth of a 13th baby to Margaret, one of the oldest breeding female howler monkeys in the country.

The baby, Linc, was born Feb. 27 and joins mother and older brother Cliff on exhibit at the Tropical Forest Complex.

Linc weighs about 1 pound and will remain with his mother for the next several months as long as he nurses and grows, said keeper Karen Vacco.

Visitors may have a hard time seeing Linc at first, Ms. Vacco said, because he is small and clings to his mother's side.

Howlers, a threatened species, have an average life span of 20 years.

Story here.

Most Human-chimp Differences Due To Gene Regulation - Not Genes

The vast differences between humans and chimpanzees are due more to changes in gene regulation than differences in individual genes themselves, researchers from Yale, the University of Chicago, and the Hall Institute in Parkville, Victoria, Australia, argue in the 9 March 2006 issue of the journal Nature.

The scientists provide powerful new evidence for a 30-year-old theory, proposed in a classic paper from Mary-Claire King and Allan Wilson of Berkeley. That 1975 paper documented the 99-percent similarity of genes from humans and chimps and suggested that altered gene regulation, rather than changes in coding, might explain how so few genetic changes could produce the wide anatomic and behavioral differences between the two.

Using novel gene-array technology to measure the extent of gene expression in thousands of genes simultaneously, this study shows that as humans diverged from their ape ancestors in the last five million years, genes for transcription factors -- which control the expression of other genes -- were four times as likely to have changed their own expression patterns as the genes they regulate.

Because they influence the activity of many "downstream" genetic targets, small changes in the expression of these regulatory genes can have an enormous impact.

"When we looked at gene expression, we found fairly small changes in 65 million years of the macaque, orangutan, and chimpanzee evolution," said study author Yoav Gilad, Ph.D., assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago, "followed by rapid change, along the five million years of the human lineage, that was concentrated on these specific groups of genes. This rapid evolution in transcription factors occurred only in humans."

"For 30 years scientists have suspected that gene regulation has played a central role in human evolution," said Kevin White, Ph.D., associate professor of genetics and ecology and evolution at Yale and senior author of the study. "In addition to lending support to the idea that changes in gene regulation are a key part of our evolutionary history, these new results help to define exactly which regulatory factors may be important, at least in certain tissues. This helps open the door to a functional dissection of the role of gene regulation during the evolution of modern humans."

Story here.

Chimp dies after transfer to Texas sanctuary

One of nine chimpanzees moved to a Texas sanctuary after Ohio State University decided to close a research center died following his transfer, school officials said.

The 35-year-old male, named Kermit, stopped breathing Thursday after workers at Primarily Primates in San Antonio sedated him during a move from a transfer cage to living quarters, university spokesman Earle Holland said. Workers tried to resuscitate the chimp.

The university suspects Kermit's head fell forward while he was sedated, blocking his airway. Obesity may have been a factor in the death of the 300-pound chimp, Holland said.

Ohio State veterinarians were to travel to San Antonio to check on the other chimps, and meet with sanctuary officials and the veterinarian performing Kermit's necropsy.

The other chimps were successfully sedated and doing fine, Holland said. Chimps can become violent when confronted by humans so they are sedated when being moved, he said.

Story here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A moment of dog monkey zen...

A monkey called 'Ramu' plays with a dog 'babu' during a street show in the southern Indian city of Chennai March 1, 2006. REUTERS/Babu