Friday, June 30, 2006

Alchoholic monkey drinks 3-4 beers per day

beer swilling monkey

BANNO loves beer, she guzzles at least three to four bottles everyday. And if she doesn’t get her quota, she can even turn violent. In fact, Banno has been hooked on the drink for the last decade or so, even as her peers favour bananas. For Banno is a female monkey in Nawabganj locality of Unnao.

For over a decade now, Banno has been living on a tree near a beer shop in Nawabganj. Over the years, she has become the local star, as visitors flock to the area to see the monkey drinking beer.

According to Ram Nath, a local vendor, Banno developed the ‘‘addiction’’ after some taxi drivers gave her some beer on a hot summer day many years back. ‘‘Since then, drivers who pass by have been providing her with half or quarter bottles of beer,’’ he says.

And now, the monkey apparently cannot do without the drink, even going to the extent of attacking people. ‘‘She injures people and snatches their beer bottles,’’ adds Ram Nath.

The owner of the beer shop, Rajesh Singh, admits that Banno helped raise his sale figures. People visit the site just to see the monkey drinking beer. ‘‘But now, she has been hitting business as she has injured at least half-a-dozen people in the last few months,’’ he says.

Manju Kumari, a daily wage worker, adds that Banno bit his seven-year-old son when he was playing near the beer shop.

Pappu Verma is another of Banno’s victims. ‘‘I had heard that she consumes a full bottle of beer. I had just purchased beer at the shop when Banno pounced on me,’’ he says.

Meanwhile, a crowds gathers to watch Banno, who is carrying a bottle as usual. The beer has made her overweight. But locals remain attached to her, especially as the monkey is so old and has been around for years.

Story here.

Wayward marmoset found in East Palo Alto

An unwanted guest was found monkeying around an East Palo Alto neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, much to the shock of a resident.

The Peninsula Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals received a telephone call Tuesday from an East Palo Alto man who said he saw a monkey running across his backyard fence.

PHS/SPCA Officer Brian Schenck responded to the home and secured the monkey, which turned out to be a marmoset.

Marmosets are indigenous to Central and South America and are considered the world's smallest primates. They have tufts of white hair near their ears and their tails can stretch over a foot long, according to the PHS/SPCA.

The marmoset found in East Palo Alto is a male that weighs less than a pound. It is said to be in good health.

The Department of Fish and Game was contacted to see if anyone living in the East Palo Alto area has a permit to keep a marmoset, but the PHS/SPCA reported no such permits have been issued.

The PHS/SPCA is making arrangements to send the marmoset to Primarily Primates, a sanctuary near San Antonio.

Story here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Great ape's rights go before Spain's parliament today

Spain's parliament is to declare support for rights to life and freedom for great apes on Wednesday, apparently the first time any national legislature will have recognized such rights for non-humans.

Parliament is to ask the government to adhere to the Great Ape Project, which would mean recognizing that our closest genetic relatives should be part of a "community of equals" with humans, supporters of the resolution said.

The move in a country better known for bull-fighting would follow a string of social reforms which have converted Spain from one of Europe's most conservative nations into a liberal trailblazer.

Backers of the resolution expect support from the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose government has legalized gay marriage and reduced the influence of the Catholic Church in education.

"With this, Spain will make itself a world leader in protection of the great apes," said Pedro Pozas, general secretary of the Great Ape Project's Spanish branch.

The resolution, presented by a Green Party parliamentarian, prompted criticism and some ridicule at first.

Spanish media quoted the Catholic Archbishop of Pamplona as saying it was ludicrous to grant apes rights not enjoyed by unborn children, in a reference to Spanish abortion laws.

But a spokesman for Archbishop Fernando Sebastian said he had been taken out of context and now supported the resolution.

Story here.

Mystery apes of central Africa are not new species, just fat apes

A tribe of apes living in remote forests in the northern Democratic Republic of Congo are unusually large chimpanzees, not a new species of giant ape or a chimp-gorilla hybrid, New Scientist says.

Zoologists became excited after people living around Bili, a town about 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of the Ebola River, recounted tales of seeing huge ferocious apes with a taste for killing lions.

From photographs, the creatures were estimated to weigh about 100 kilos (220 pounds) and their footprints, at up to 34 centimetres (13.6 inches), were longer than a gorilla's.

But a year-long hunt by Cleve Hicks and colleagues from the University of Amsterdam shows there is only a "negligible" chance that the enigmatic apes are a new branch of the primate tree.

Hicks were able to observe the animals for a total of 20 hours.

"I see nothing gorilla about them. The females definitely have a chimp's sex swellings, they pant-hoot and tree-drum, and so on," he told the British science weekly, whose report appears in Saturday's issue.

Samples of a DNA recovered from faeces also put the animals in a recognised subspecies of chimp, Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii.

Even so, the Bili apes are unusual, as they have a gorilla-like crest on their skulls and howl during the full moon.

About 18 kms (11 miles) northwest of Bili, Hicks came across a large community of the animals that apparently had never met a human before.

Story here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A moment of monkey bullriding zen...

A monkey rides on the back of a bull during a bullfight at the Santa Ana festival in Nindiri City some 15 miles (24km) south of Managua, June 26, 2006. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas (NICARAGUA)

Monday, June 26, 2006

NTT West develops reporting tag system to stop monkey intruders

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone West Corp. announced Monday it has developed a reporting system via e-mail to alert farmers of monkeys intruding in their fields using integrated circuit tags.

NTT West will put battery-powered radio frequency identification IC tags on one monkey in each group so that the monkeys can be detected by a special apparatus in the fields when they intrude and their location reported to farmers by e-mail on their cellphones, the company said, adding the system is aimed at reducing damages to farm products caused by such monkeys.

According to a survey by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, there were 20.6 billion yen in farm product damages caused by wild animals nationwide in fiscal 2004.

NTT West said the new system will also reduce the burden on farmers who are now forced to maintain constant surveillance of such monkeys as they can easily sneak in through fences set up around the fields.

Under the new system, the farmers are required to go to the fields to clear out the monkeys only when they receive such reports of their entry.

According to NTT West, the apparatus for the system costs 2.1 million yen.

Story here.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Chinese zoo helps chimp to quit smoking

Zoo keepers in northwest China have been helping a chimpanzee who smoked up to 20 cigarettes a day to kick his chain-smoking habit.

Xiku, the only grown chimp in the zoo of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, became an addict by observing and mimicking humans when he performed in a circus several years ago.

"After Xiku came to stay in our zoo in September 2002, his nicotine addiction became even stronger. He was smoking nearly 20 cigarettes a day compared with less than ten prior to coming here," the keeper at the zoo said.

"We were worried that smoking harmed Xiku's health, and began to control his smoking soon after he entered the zoo." But to encourage the chimp to quit smoking was not easy. At the beginning, he became irascible when he wanted to smoke, jolting windows and doors, said the keeper. Visitors to the zoo did not help the situation, tossing Xiku cigarettes for their own amusement.

"We sometimes gave him some sunflower seeds or a bottle of beer to help him shake off the addiction and visitors are no longer allowed to throw him cigarettes," the keeper said.

Now, Xiku has gone through the pain barrier and has become less addicted to cigarettes, said the keeper. Xiku is now down to four cigarettes a day.

"We are confident that Xiku will soon quit smoking completely with our help," the keeper said.

Story here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

New Lemur species named for CI President

MittermeierTo recognize an internationally renowned primatologist and champion of Madagascar's unique biodiversity, scientists who discovered three new species of mouse lemur on the island nation have named one in honor of Russell A. Mittermeier, the president of Conservation International.

Mittermeier, the longtime chair of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, is an expert on Madagascar and its lemurs, the distinctive primates found nowhere else on Earth. He is the lead author of "Lemurs of Madagascar," a comprehensive field guide on the country's flagship species.

His efforts inspired researcher Mireya Mayor to shift her scientific focus to Madagascar, and she was part of the team that discovered the three new mouse lemurs that were officially named in a paper published in June by the International Journal of Primatology. One of the new species is named Microcebus mittermeieri, or Mittermeier's Mouse Lemur.

The other two named in the paper are Microcebus jollyae (Jolly's Mouse Lemur), for Alison Jolly, a pioneering lemur researcher from Princeton University, and Microcebus simmonsi (Simmons' Mouse Lemur), for Dr. Lee Simmons, director of the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska.

Mayor's first research grant came from Mittermeier, and the discoveries by Mayor, Dr. Edward Louis and their Malagasy team occurred shortly before Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana declared his visionary conservation policy in 2003 to triple Madagascar's protected areas – including vital lemur habitat.

"I consider it a great honor to have a primate species named after me, and, given my life-long interest in Madagascar, I am especially pleased that it is a lemur. Other scientific discoveries come and go, but a new species becomes a permanent part of the scientific record, and will be with us forever," Mittermeier said. "I am also delighted that this species is found in one of the highest priority areas for conservation in Madagascar, and that its discovery provides yet another justification for protecting the important Anjanaharibe-Sud Reserve."

Mayor, a Fulbright scholar, National Geographic correspondent and former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, went to Madagascar after reading an article in a magazine about Mittermeier and his work with lemurs. The lemur that now bears Mittermeier's name was discovered by Mayor and her colleagues on an expedition to study another lemur, the Critically Endangered silky sifaka.

Story here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

'Scouser' baboons are stealing England flags from cars

Safari park bosses have warned visitors to remove England flags from their cars today after a group of baboons began stealing them.

The animals have built up a huge collection of flags in the monkey enclosure at Knowsley safari park in Merseyside.

Keepers at the park say the 120-strong troop of baboons have been known to help themselves to windscreen wipers but have now turned their attentions to the World Cup flags.

Safari Park general manager David Ross said: "Many people are wisely removing the flags before they set off on the safari drive.

"However, if they forget the baboons usually take them and they've now built up quite a collection.

"If you think about it, this is hardly surprising. All the baboons were born here on Merseyside so they are Scousers through and through and probably just as football mad as everyone else in the area.

"Visitors are certainly enjoying their antics with the flags as it does look like they are showing their support for the efforts of the England team in Germany."

Story here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Thousands flock to be healed by "monkey" man

Thousands of people are flocking to an impoverished Indian village in eastern West Bengal state to worship a man they believe possesses divine powers because he climbs up trees in seconds, gobbles up bananas and has a "tail."

Devotees say 27-year-old villager Chandre Oraon is an incarnation of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman -- worshipped by millions as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion.

"He climbs up trees, behaves like a monkey and is a strict vegetarian, but he is no god and his condition is just a congenital defect," says Bhushan Chakraborty, the local medical officer.

Tucked away in a hamlet in Banarhat, over 400 miles north of Kolkata, the state capital, devotees wait for hours to see or touch Oraon's 13-inch tail, believing that it has healing powers.

Doctors said the "tail" -- made up of some flesh but mostly of dark hair -- was simply a rare physical attribute.

"It is a congenital anomaly, but very rarely do we find such cases," B. Ramana, a Kolkata-based surgeon, told Reuters.

Story here.

Earliest hominid: Not a hominid at all?

The earliest known hominid fossil, which dates to about 7 million years ago, is actually some kind of ape, according to an international team of researchers led by the University of Michigan. The finding, they say, suggests scientists should rethink whether we actually descended from apes resembling chimpanzees, which are considered our closest relatives.

U-M anthropologist Milford Wolpoff and colleagues examined images and the original paper published on the discovery of the Toumaï cranium (TM 266) or Sahelanthropus tchadensis, as well as a computer reconstruction of the skull. Two other colleagues were actually able to examine the skull, Wolpoff said, in addition to the images and the computer reconstruction.

The research team concluded that the cranium did not sit atop the spine but in front of it, indicating the creature walked on all fours like an ape. Hominids, he said, are distinguished from all other primates by walking upright. Hominids are everything on the line leading to humans after divergence with chimpanzees. Upright bipedalism is the single best way of identifying which fossils are hominids.

Researchers also examined the canine teeth and found that they were not clearly human or ape-like, but rather like most other canine fossils from the Miocene era.

"Whether or not it's a human ancestor is probably unimportant as far as the skull is concerned," Wolpoff said. "But it's very important in trying to understand where humans come from. It's the first relative we've had of the earliest hominid, or something related to it, but it's not a hominid at all."

Nor does the skull resemble a living chimpanzee—no fossil records of chimpanzees exist so it's impossible to compare to earlier descendents, Wolpff said. Genetic data puts the divergence of chimpanzees and humans at anywhere from 4 to 6 million years ago. Even though it's not a definite date, it makes it difficult to show a 7-million-year-old fossil is a hominid without overwhelming evidence, he said.

"The big message it sends us is our ancestors never looked like a chimpanzee," Wolpoff said. "This thing is clearly saying that chimpanzees are just as different from this ancestor as we are. They are just different in a different way."

Wolpoff said the skull could be a common ancestor of humans and living chimps.

"Now we have insight into what an early ape looked like, but we have no fossils of apes after it, so you can't tell clearly," he said.

Story here.

Foraging Monkeys Make Use of Meteorology

Apparently humans aren't the only primates that plan outdoor events based on weather.

Gray-cheeked mangabey monkeys rely on recent trends in temperature and solar radiation to forage for figs and insect larvae, report Karline Janmaat and her colleagues of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The results support a lesser-studied notion that primate cognition evolved to solve problems rooted in ecology--such as foraging--instead of the more favored viewpoint, that cognition evolved as a way to cope within a complex society.

The findings, published today in Current Biology, come from field studies conducted for 210 days in the Kibale National Park of Uganda, where Janmaat mapped out the locations of 80 fig trees, noting whether the trees contained ripe fruit, unripe fruit or no fruit at all. Next, her team followed a group of mangabey monkeys from dawn to dusk, recording their position every 10 minutes using global positioning system (GPS) satellite technology, and observing whether the animals revisited or bypassed fig trees visited earlier. The researchers also recorded the maximum and minimum daily temperatures, as well as the percentage of high-level solar radiation.

They found that if the weather had been warm and sunny--as opposed to cool and cloudy--for a period of about five days, the monkeys were more likely to revisit a fruiting tree. "During the rainy season, the fruit takes really long to ripen--up to two months before they are finally ripe," Janmaat says. "In some periods when it's sunny, it can be in one week. There are big variations. Maybe it's worthwhile for the monkeys to know that."

Story here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Endangered monkeys stolen from East Sussex Zoo

Five endangered monkeys worth several hundred pounds each have been stolen from a zoo as they slept, possibly in response to an increasing demand for exotic pets.

Thieves smashed through fencing at Drusillas Zoo Park at Alfriston, East Sussex, and stole the marmosets from their nesting boxes, park officials said.

There was concern today that the primates - normally found in the South American rainforests - could have been stolen to order for illegal collectors of rare animals.

Sue Woodgate, the zoo manager, said they were particularly anxious to trace the mother monkey, a silvery marmoset called Jazz, who needs regular medication.

"We are very worried about the welfare of all the monkeys, especially Jazz, who has a medical condition which requires treatment twice daily," she said.

"She will become very poorly quickly without her medication."

Also missing is Larkin, the first silvery marmoset baby born at Drusillas.

The marmosets were safe in their enclosure at the popular visitor attraction when zoo staff locked up on Saturday evening.

But when keepers returned yesterday morning, they found smashed glass, broken fences and the marmosets missing.

Story here.

Singapore's most famous ape celebrates 46th birthday

singapore apeSingapore's furriest celebrity turned 46 Sunday, to raucous cheers from her fans and a delicious "cake" made of tropical fruits.

At 46, Ah Meng is the Singapore zoo's most famous poster girl. The primate, whose wrinkled face has also sold Singapore worldwide in tourism ads, has shaken hands and clinked glasses with foreign dignitaries and celebrities from Britain's Prince Philip to pop star Michael Jackson.

In 1992, she received the "Special Tourism Ambassador" award from the Singapore Tourism Board.

Ah Meng is also the oldest orangutan living in captivity, but her appearances are now rare because zookeepers are refraining from giving their most prized exhibit too much pressure, said her keeper, Alagappsamy Chellaiyah.

But on Sunday, people waited in long lines to have their photos taken with the hulking creature, who seemed more interested in ravaging her "cake" of tropical Southeast Asian fruits _ including rambutans, durians and mangosteens.

While age has not eroded the ape's popularity, it has slowed her down. An orangutan has a life expectancy of 50 years.

"Her movements are now slower, especially when climbing up the branches," Chellaiyah said.

Story here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Friend mistaken for monkey and shot

A 53-year-old man climbing a fruit tree in a village in northern Malaysia had a narrow escape when he was shot and wounded by a friend who mistook him for a monkey.

Yahya Ahmad, from the northern state of Kedah, was putting protective coverings on jackfruits in an orchard owned by his friend, police were quoted as saying yesterday.

"The suspect was tracking a monkey which had been causing damage to his fruit trees that morning and saw the branches of the jackfruit tree shaking. He shot at the spot and hit Yahya instead," a policeman said.

Yahya escaped serious injury because the shotgun pellets that blasted his body and leg did not penetrate deeply, he added.

Story here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

More chimps die at Texas center caring for ex-OSU primates

Three more chimpanzees have died at the Texas center where Ohio State University sent its primates in March.

That brings the total to five chimp deaths at Primarily Primates in three months, including two from Ohio State.

Wally Swett, president of Primarily Primates near San Antonio, confirmed the deaths of the three additional non-OSU animals, the latest one on June 3. One of the animals, Lynn, was euthanized. Swett said she suffered from a spinal infection.

Another, Marty, died of peritonitis, he said, which is an inflammation of an abdomen membrane, and Arthur died June 3 of an unknown neurological problem.

"He climbed in his bed and he died at 11:30 in the morning," Swett said.

Many of the animals living at Primarily Primates have been used in medical experiments and deaths among them are not unusual, Swett said.

These newest deaths follow those of Kermit and Bobby, two OSU chimps that died of heart problems shortly after arriving at the center.

"A pre-existing heart condition is a common catchphrase," said April Truitt, of the Primate Rescue Center at Nicholasville, Ky.

Primate Rescue and Primarily Primates are among nine greatape retirement centers in North America.

"Five is a lot. I would be curious as to the circumstances of those deaths," Truitt said.

Larry Cummins, a veterinarian at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, said several deaths in a short period is not unheard of.

"We’re sending them up there to die. It’s an old folks’ home," he said.

Story here.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chimp dies in Lowry Zoo fight

Herman the chimpanzee, a beloved fixture at Lowry Park Zoo since 1965, died Thursday after a violent altercation with another male chimp in the zoo's primate display area.

The 42-year-old African-born alpha male underwent hours of surgery following the afternoon brawl and died shortly after 7 p.m., zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said.

"Herman was a very, very well-loved animal at the zoo," Nelson said. "Our staff is just devastated, and he will be very dearly missed."

Rukiya, a 26-year-old female chimp who intervened in Thursday's fight, received injuries requiring stitches. She was expected to recover.

It was unclear what caused the fight between Herman and Bamboo, another older chimp who has resided at the zoo for five years, Nelson said. Bamboo received minor injuries.

Story here.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Orangutan seized from Cambodian government official

An orangutan has been seized from a senior government official in Cambodia as the animal was being driven across Phnom Penh in a taxi.

The four-year-old ape is said to have been rescued by wildlife conservationists in an operation backed by Cambodian military police.

But the official concerned - National Disaster Committee Nhim Vanda - says he received the orangutan two months ago, and had permission to keep the animal in one of his two private zoos.

He also says he will be filing a complaint if the ape is not returned.

Story here.

Race against time to save family of baboons from firing squad

A British vet and an animal sanctuary are in a race against time to save a family of baboons from a firing squad.

Five adult baboons and two young at a former zoo in Portugal will be put to death in eight weeks unless help arrives soon.

The deadline was imposed by the Portuguese authorities this week after the failure of a worldwide search to re-home the family of primates.

Despite exhaustive efforts, the only help available came from a husband-and-wife team who run a sanctuary in Wales.

Story here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Shanghai man gets trousers stolen by monkey

A Mr Wang found an unexpected guest sneaking around his room and looking through his clothes earlier this morning. As his uninvited guest escaped from the window with a pair of his trousers, Wang realized that it was a monkey, Shanghai Evening Post reported today.

Wang said his wife and him were sleeping deeply until a sound woke them up at 4am. He saw a small figure standing near the bed, searching through his clothes.

"I thought that it was a child at first, but the figure was only 30 centimeters tall," Wang said.

"When I stood up, it rushed to the window with my trousers. My wife failed to grab it but noticed it had a tail."

Wang said he realized that it was a monkey when it looked back at him after passing through the iron bars on the window.

Some neighbors said that the monkey may have been searching for food, while Wang suspects that it was trained to steal.

He said he locked the window screen before sleeping, so maybe someone opened it and let the monkey in.

Wang said there was a similar case last October. His neighbor found clothes missing with certificates and tens of thousands of yuan in it when they woke up in the morning, but all the doors and window were not prized.

Yao Jianzhuang, an employee from the Shanghai Zoo, said it only takes about three months to train a monkey to do some acts, including stealing.

Story here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Three Endangered Lemurs Born At Sacramento Zoo

The Sacramento zoo has three new fuzzy friends.

One female and two male black and white ruffed lemurs were discovered in their “nest” on the morning of April 23, says the zoo. The endangered offspring were born to the seven-year-old first-time mother, who is taking exceptional care of her offspring. The baby lemurs’ father is also seven-years-old.

According to the zoo, the black and white ruffed lemurs are one of the few primate species to be successfully reintroduced back into the wild. The first release took place in 1997 when five, zoo-born lemurs were released into the Betamona Natural Reserve in eastern Madagascar. Several more releases have been made since then into this protected area.

Story here.

Iowa Ape Research Facility to Offer Public Tours

The three orangutans and eight bonobos living at the Great Ape Trust will interact with more humans starting in June when the research facility is opened to the public.

Tours of the 230-acre forest, lakes and great ape housing areas will be available to small groups from June 6 through Sept. 7.

"We want to begin to educate people about why it's important for us to understand apes, why it's important for us to realize the degree of similarity between ourselves and apes and what we can learn about ourselves by studying apes," said Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, a lead scientist at the trust focusing on studying the behavior and intelligence of bonobos.

After 23 years at Georgia State University's Language Research Center, Savage-Rumbaugh brought her studies to the trust. She has developed methods of communicating with bonobos that involve using symbols.

Story here.