Monday, July 31, 2006

Monkey grave theft rattles town

The mysterious disappearance of an historic gravestone has left Littleborough folk scratching their heads.

The stone memorial to a pet monkey – a popular attraction which dates from the late 1800s – was snatched from Hare Hill Park late last Friday night.

The theft has baffled council staff and park volunteers.

Chris Flintoff, the council’s service manager for parks and countryside, has informed the police.

He said: "It is a real tragedy. I can’t understand why anyone would do such a thing. We have just got Green Flag status and somebody, somewhere has robbed Hare Hill of a piece of its history.

"The grave was a real attraction for the kids and a symbol of Littleborough’s heritage. There was rarely a time when there wasn’t any flowers placed there and we are very, very upset about it. If someone damages a bench we can repair it but this can’t be replaced."

It is believed the monkey was the pet of the Newall family – the first owners of Hare Hill House, who sold the park to Littleborough Urban District Council in 1901.

The two-foot-high stone dates from the late 1800s and is inscribed with the monkey’s name, Mephisto.

Story here.

Chimpanzee jumps out of moat, causes panic

Panic broke out in the Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, Mysore Zoo here on Saturday, as a chimpanzee jumped out of its enclosure sending ripples of anxiety among the zoo authorities, staff and the visitors for nearly an hour. It all happened minutes after noon.

Jason, a 14-year-male chimpanzee escaped from the open moat by crossing over the solar fence and came to the open zoo area in the afternoon.

The animal started roaming and made the visitors run helter-skelter.

Authorities and the chimpanzee’s keeper Shankar made a vain attempt to pacify the chimp and send it back to enclosure.

But, the officials restricted the movement of Jason near its open enclosure and avoid any harm to visitors safety and the escape of the chimpanzee from the zoo precincts.

When all efforts failed to persuade the animal to go back to its enclosure, the zoo veterinarians injected sedatives and tranquillised the chimpanzee. Later, it was shifted to safely to the enclosure.

"Presently, the condition of the animal is very stable," zoo director, Ranga Rao said in a statement released from the zoo in the evening.

Story here.

Baboons 'go ape' as builders demolish their home

A zoo was forced to put up an electric fence to protect builders from baboons angry at the demolition of their home.

The 120-strong troop of baboons has lived in the two-storey building at Knowsley Safari Park, in Merseyside, for the past 35 years.

But they reacted angrily when builders moved in to knock it down and replace it with a new compound.

Safari Park general manager David Ross said: "The problem with animals is that you can't consult with them and tell them that they'll have new deluxe accommodation within a few weeks.

"We just had to go in there and demolish the building to make way for the new structure, although the work was specifically scheduled for high summer when baboons prefer to sleep outside in the trees.

"Nevertheless, as soon as they saw what was happening the troop got very agitated and I could hear them barking and chattering all through the night."

Project manager Geoff Ames said it was the most unusual project he had worked on.

He added: "Because we're effectively in a cage and the animals are free to roam around us we do feel as though the roles are reversed and we are the exhibit.

"However, we're grateful for the protection because the baboons were obviously not very happy about the demolition."

Story here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A moment of chimp fishing zen...

chimp fishing
chimp fishing
chimp fishing
chimp fishing
"Charlie" learned to fish to kick off the Wildlife Festival 2005 in Lewiston, N.Y., last weekend.

Charlie is the honorary "chair chimp" of this year's event.

He ended up catching two fish in the Niagara River just north of Niagara Falls.

Story here.

Repatriated orangutans to be prepared for wildlife

smuggled orangutansTwo smuggled orangutans repatriated to Indonesia this week are to be prepared for a return to their home in the jungles of Kalimantan, the organisation charged with their care said Thursday.

The great apes, Don-Don aged two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half year old Dong, arrived back from Vietnam on Monday in a speedy repatriation that environmentalists said sent a strong signal to illegal wildlife traffickers.

Aldrianto Priadjati, executive director of the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation, said that the pair would remain under quarantine for 30 days before their lessons on surviving in the wild would begin.

DNA-testing would first be required to track the female orangutans' origins to one of three sub-species of the apes found in Indonesia's Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.

It may take three to five years to properly prepare them for a return to the wild after their spate in captivity, Priadjati told AFP.

"It will depend on their progress at the rehabilitation centre... They are not too old, but also not too young," he said of the pair.

"We're trying to make them as well as possible to make sure that the orangutans can regenerate in the forests."

He said Don-Don and Dong were "a little bit skinny" but had already put on a kilogram (2.2 pounds) each in the two weeks they have been back in care after being rescued from a private hotel zoo in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City.

Training will be a gradual process of introducing them to other orangutans, adapting their diet and allowing them to learn to use forest items, before moving them to a half-way house and then finally the jungle, Priadjati said.

Workers from the BOS and the non-governmental group Wildlife At Risk had found the orangutans and alerted Vietnamese officials, who confiscated them on July 11.

They were smuggled into the country seven to 12 months ago from Kalimantan and bought for a total of 15,000 dollars.

Orangutans are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species but experts say the trade in them continues.

Story here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Oldest captive orangutan dies at 44

The oldest captive orangutan in the United States has died at age 44, Oklahoma City Zoo officials say.

Les Tunku, a male Sumatran orangutan, died from heart and kidney failure, Gary West, the zoo's veterinarian services director, told The Oklahoman newspaper.

He had been put under anesthesia so he could be examined after being lethargic and having difficulty breathing, West said. The stress of the procedure was too much for his heart, and the ape went into cardiac arrest Tuesday.

All the apes are sedated for medical exams, West said.

Most orangutans in a zoo environment live about 40 years, the newspaper said. Wild orangutans usually live for 35 to 40 years. Tabo, the zoo's female orangutan, is 39 years old and healthy, West said.

"It's a sad day for all of us here," West said. "He was a really neat animal."

If the remains are not used for scientific purposes, the orangutan will be buried, a zoo spokeswoman said, adding she did not know if the zoo would get another orangutan.

Les arrived at the zoo in 1962, the year he was born. He fathered nine children, including five with Tabo.

Story here.

Human Ancestors May Have Hit the Ground Running

walkingNew findings raise the interesting possibility that the step from a tree-dwelling ape to a terrestrial biped might not have been as drastic as previously thought.

Scientists find muscles gibbons use for climbing and swinging through trees might also help the apes run.

Humans are the upright apes, but much remains unknown as to how our ancestors first found their footing. To shed light on the past, Evie Vereecke at the University of Antwerp in Belgium and her colleagues looked at how modern cousins of humanity such as gibbons and bonobos amble.

For two months, Vereecke's team monitored how four white-handed gibbons at a local zoo strode at speeds ranging from strolls to sprints across a 13-foot-long walkway surrounded with video cameras and loaded with scientific instruments such as force plates and pressure mats.

The gibbons collaborated well, "especially when you rewarded them with some raisins," Vereecke said.

While bonobos are our closest relatives and probably have a similar anatomy to our ancestors, gibbons are the most bipedal nonhuman apes, and the researchers wanted to see whether their gaits resembled any of humans.

Walking saves energy by converting the kinetic energy from a step to potential energy as walkers move over their supporting feet, energy that is ready to get recovered back as kinetic energy when walkers move into their next step. Running, on the other hand, stores energy from each bound as elastic energy in the tendons, muscles and ligaments before it gets recycled back as recoil for the next step.

Most legged animals walk at low speeds and run, trot, hop or gallop at high speeds. By monitoring how much force the gibbons stepped down with, the researchers calculated that gibbons almost always seemed to bounce along using the energetics linked with running, even though their footfall patterns were more like those of walks, the scientists reported in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

This suggests the step for humans from a tree-dwelling ape to a terrestrial biped might not have been as drastic as previously thought, Vereecke said.

Story here.

Squirrel Monkey troop escapes London Zoo then returns

freedomFIVE "adventurous and very intelligent" monkeys have escaped London Zoo into nearby Regent's Park.

The pack of squirrel monkeys made their bid for freedom early this morning before the zoo opened.

"The squirrel monkeys have managed to gain access to some of the taller trees in their enclosure and from there, have leapt into the higher branches of a tree in Regents Park," a London Zoo spokeswoman said.

They spent the morning exploring the park, but by 1.30pm all but one of the monkeys had returned to their enclosure.

"Betty is still pottering about in the park and we are confident she is not far behind," she said.

"We have identified where the breach is occurring and currently have tree surgeons working in the enclosure to rectify this.

"Squirrel monkeys are not a dangerous animal their enclosure is a walk through exhibit and they pose no threat to the public."

She said they were a very intelligent set of monkeys and staff had previously had to train them to stop stealing visitor's mobile phones.

Story here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Greek paleontologists find rare prehistoric primate skull

Mesopithecus pentelicus Paleontologists in northern Greece have unearthed the intact skull of a prehistoric primate that lived at least 5 million years ago, a member of the research team said Wednesday.

"The skull still carries the bite marks of a large carnivore, it ranks among the best preserved ever found," Aristotelio University assistant professor of geology Evangelia Tsoukala said. "It gives us a complete image of the animal, as it preserves all its facial characteristics."

Measuring 1.3 meters (4.27 feet) to the tip of its long tail, the primate was a Mesopithecus pentelicus that lived during the Late Miocene period between 5 million and 7 million years ago, she said.

Though the species was herbivorous, the primate's skull has long, sharp canines, identifying it as a male.

The skull was found in a cliffside in the Halkidiki peninsula, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of the city of Salonika that was once savannah and forest.

The bones of over 20 animal species, including prehistoric horses, gazelles, giraffes, hyenas, a mastodon, and small rodents have already been found in the region, Tsoukala said.

Story here.

Ancient global warming drove early primates' dispersal

The continent-hopping habits of early primates have long puzzled scientists, and several scenarios have been proposed to explain how the first true members of the group appeared virtually simultaneously on Asia, Europe and North America some 55 million years ago.

But new research using the latest evidence suggests a completely different migration path from those previously proposed and indicates that sudden, rapid global warming drove the dispersal.

Researchers from the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences present their findings in the July 25 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Their work focuses on Teilhardina,an ancient genus that resembled the saucer-eyed, modern-day primates known as tarsiers. Like tarsiers, monkeys, apes and humans, Teilhardinawas a true primate, or euprimate. In both Asia and Europe, the genus is the oldest known primate; in North America, it appears in the fossil record around the same time as another primate, Cantius. Previously, scientists had come up with four ways to explain the geographic distribution pattern.

The first is that primates originated in Africa and spread across Europe and Greenland to reach North America. Another possibility is that they originated in North America and traveled across a temporary land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska. A third hypothesis is that primates had their origins in Africa or Asia and traveled through North America to reach western Europe. Finally, it has been suggested that the group originated in Asia and fanned out eastward to North America and westward to Europe.

In the new research, U-M paleontologist Philip Gingerich and coworkers re-evaluated the four hypotheses by comparing with unprecedented precision the times of first appearance of Teilhardina in Asia, Europe, and North America. To achieve such precision, they used a carbon isotope curve recently documented on all three continents. Carbon in the atmosphere, earth and living organisms differs in the proportion of carbon-12 and carbon-13 present. A flood of carbon- 12 is associated with the onset of an event known as the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), one of the most rapid and extreme global warming events recorded in geologic history. It was during the PETM that modern primates first appeared 55 million years ago. Teilhardina in Asia precedes the maximum flood of carbon-12, Teilhardina in Europe coincides with it, and Teilhardina in North America appears just after the maximum. Based on this evidence, the researchers concluded that none of previously proposed scenarios was likely. Instead, they propose that Teilhardina migrated from South Asia to Europe, crossing the Turgai Straits—an ancient seaway between Europe and Asia—and then spread to North America by way of Greenland.

The whole dispersal event happened within about 25,000 years. "It is remarkable to be able to study evolutionary events so deep in the past with such precision," said Gingerich, who is the Ermine Cowles Case Collegiate Professor of Paleontology and director of the U-M Museum of Paleontology. "The speed of dispersal and the speed of evolutionary change during dispersal are near the maximum for such rates observed today, and the rapid change and dispersal were almost certainly driven by profound greenhouse warming at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary."

Story here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Club-wielding chimp disappears after California sighting

Authorities have not been able to locate a chimpanzee seen with a club in its hand in the backyard of a Thousand Oaks home Monday morning.

At 9:30 a.m., a resident in the 1500 block of Via Bajada saw a chimpanzee with some type of club, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said. By the time California Department of Fish and Game workers arrived, the animal had disappeared.

Officials suspect that it belongs to a neighbor, and the Department of Fish and Game was searching for people who have permits to own such animals, the Sheriff's Department said.

Story here.

IIS dumps monkeys after experiments

The Indian Institute of Science has been accused of releasing 20 experimented monkeys into the forest without proper clearances.

Three of the monkeys have been rescued by a wildlife NGO who now say they are going to take serious action against the institute.

The monkeys have spent most of their lives in a research lab. But they were among 20 lab monkeys released by the Institute into the Sathanur forest more than two weeks ago.

The monkeys were left to fend for themselves. Only three were found by an animal welfare group which accuses the institute of violating rules by releasing lab animals into the wild before they are ready.

"According to the rules they need to pay a particular NGO for life time care of these monkeys and they found a way out of releasing them into the forests," said Sharat Babu, Senior Manager, People For Animals.

"Most probably their primate research laboratory will have to wind up and they will not conduct future experiments," Sharat added.

The institute could lose its animal research license for ignoring the rehabilitation guidelines of the central Committee for the purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiment on Animals.

Even members of the Institute's own ethics committee agree that norms were not followed.

"Animals that have lived for anywhere between 4-12 years in unnatural surroundings cannot be ejected and thrown into a forest environment over night," said Suparna Ganguly, Member, Institutional Animal Ethics Committee.

"There is need for a rehab period and to wash off all the unnatural living that a lab climate imposes on these animals and then maybe if possible to get them to the wild," added Ganguly.

The institute officials said in a press statement that the release of the animals was made under supervision of forest officials, veterinary officer and a technical officer of the institute.

However, this has failed to convince experts who believe there has been a serious violation.

Story here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Gibbon Genome Sequence To Be Added To Primate Tree

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced several new sequencing targets including the Northern white-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys), setting the stage for completing a quest to sequence the genome of at least one non-human primate genome from each of the major positions along the evolutionary primate tree and making available an essential resource for researchers unraveling the genetic factors involved in human health and disease. Comparing the genomes of other species to humans is an exceptionally powerful tool to help researchers understand the working parts of the human genome in both health and illness.

NHGRI's Large-Scale Sequencing Research Network and their international partners have already sequenced - or have been approved to sequence - at high-density coverage the genomes of several non-human primates including the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), the orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) and the gorilla (Gorilla gorilla).

"The gibbon genome sequence will provide researchers with crucial information when comparing it to the human genome sequence and other primate genomes, shedding light on molecular mechanisms implicated in human health and disease - from infectious diseases and neurological disorders to mental illness and cancer," said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

The gibbon genome is unique because it carries an extraordinary high number of chromosome rearrangements, even when compared to other primates. These rearrangements occur when small or large segments of a chromosome become detached and reattach to the same chromosome or another chromosome. Such chromosomal rearrangements can wreak havoc on a cell, and can contribute to birth defects or cancer in humans. The gibbon genome will also help scientists better understand rearrangements called segmental duplications, which are large, almost identical copies of DNA present in at least two locations in the human genome. A number of diseases are known to be associated with mutations in segmental duplicated regions, including a form of mental retardation and other neurological and birth defects.

Segmental duplications cover 5.3 percent of the human genome, significantly more than in the rat genome, which has about 3 percent, or the mouse genome, which has between 1 and 2 percent. Segmental duplications provide a window into understanding how the human genome evolved and how it may still be changing. The high proportion of segmental duplications in the human genome shows how human genes have undergone rapid functional innovation and structural change during the last 40 million years, presumably contributing to unique characteristics that separate humans from non-human primate ancestors.

With the sequencing of major primate genomes, researchers are able to more precisely study the differences between primates and humans. For instance, an analysis of the chimpanzee genome sequence has revealed that three key genes involved in inflammation have been deleted in the chimpanzee genome, possibly explaining some of the known differences between immune and inflammatory responses of chimps and humans. Identifying these genes gives researchers a more precise starting point for understanding molecular pathways and developing better diagnostics and therapies involved in immune and inflammatory diseases.

Story here.

Monkey brains give language clues

There may be a reason why humans love watching and listening to monkeys chatter.

Macaque monkeys have a strangely human way of listening to the sounds of their mates, a study has found. When the primates call out to each other they make use of the brain regions used by humans for language processing, the research revealed.

The discovery supports the theory that the origins of language go back a long way, to a creature that pre-dated humans and modern monkeys.

Dr James Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in the US, said: 'This finding brings us closer to understanding the point at which the building blocks of language appeared on the evolutionary timeline.

'While the fossil record cannot answer this question for us, we can turn to the here and now – through brain imaging of living non-human primates – for a glimpse into how language, or at least the neural circuitry required for language, came to be.'

While monkeys do not possess language, they can communicate signals about food, identity, or danger to other members of their species using cries and squawks.

In humans, the two main brain regions involved in language encoding are known as Broca's area and Wernicke's area. Broca's area is situated in the frontal lobe of the brain with Wernicke's area behind it.

Although monkeys are not able to perform the mental activities required for speaking human languages, their brains possess regions that are structurally similar to these two areas.

Story here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Venomous snakes may have helped in primates evolution

Researchers at the University of California have said that the ability to spot venomous snakes might have played a major role in the evolution of monkeys, apes and humans.

Initial studies suggested that primates developed good vision, enlarged brains, and grasping hands and feet for accomplishing their reaching and grasping functions. These characteristics got evolved as primates started using their hands and eyes to grab insects and other small prey, or to handle and examine fruit and other foods.

But Lynne Isbell, Professor of Anthropology at UC Davis said it was something else. Primates developed good close-up eyesight only for avoiding a dangerous predator- the snake.

"A snake is the only predator you really need to see close up. If it's a long way away it's not dangerous," she said.

Isbell said that neurological studies have also shown that the structure of the brain's visual system does not actually fit with the idea that vision evolved along with reaching and grasping. Vision, she said, was more connected to the "fear module," the brain structure involved with vigilance, fear and learning.

She said fossils and DNA evidence also showed that snakes were the first serious predators of modern mammals, which evolved about 100 million years ago.

"Fossils of snakes with mouths big enough to eat those mammals appear at about the same time. Other animals that could have eaten our ancestors, such as big cats, and hawks and eagles, evolved much later. Venomous snakes evolved about 60 million years ago, raising the stakes and forcing primates to get better at detecting them," she said.

"There's an evolutionary arms race between the predators and prey. Primates get better at spotting and avoiding snakes, so the snakes get better at concealment, or more venomous, and the primates respond," she added.

Story here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

SpongeBob found playing with children

A rare monkey that went missing earlier this week has been returned to Chessington World of Adventures after being handed in to police.

SpongeBob, a two-year-old endangered Bolivian squirrel monkey, was found by a member of the public being played with by some children in Clapham.

The Leatherhead Road park said Bob was fine after his three day ordeal, but had lost weight and was still nervous and stressed.

He was being looked after by vets before being returned to his awaiting female monkey fan club.

Thieves broke into the park on Sunday night and Bob was discovered missing the next morning.

Police are still appealing for information about the crime.

Detective constable Dave Burton from Kingston CID said: "The return of Sponge Bob is a fantastic result and we are delighted he is safe and well.

"We are still working closely with the team from Chessington to investigate this incident."

Story here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rare monkey stolen in night zoo raid

spongebobAn endangered Bolivian squirrel monkey has been stolen from a zoo during a night-time raid.

The monkey, named SpongeBob, is still missing after thieves broke into Chessington World of Adventures, near London, early on Monday morning.

Zookeepers found two of the fences surrounding the Monkey & Bird Garden had been cut.

Another nine of the monkeys - which are known to be territorial - were either still inside or close by, but SpongeBob has not been found and is presumed stolen.

Sonia Freeman, head of mammals at the zoo, said the two-year-old breeding male, affectionately known as Bob, had only been at Chessington for three months.

She said: "He had been especially selected through the European Endangered Species Programme to be introduced into the group of females as a breeding male, and he was successfully integrating with the group.

"We are devastated that he is gone as he is a much-loved member of the zoo with his cheeky personality."

She added: "He is still a wild animal and not a pet. If he is not looked after properly he can become very upset. He is also on a very specialised diet and he will be very unhappy and stressed at being separated from his group."

Detective Constable David Burton, from Kingston Police CID Department, said officers were investigating the incident.

He said: "We have concerns for the safety and welfare of this endangered squirrel monkey. If seen, we recommend you do not approach him as he may be in distress due to being in an unknown environment."

Story here.

Burglars may have accidentally freed monkey

Police in Pewaukee, Wis., have said a monkey spotted in a local apartment complex could be related to a string of burglaries in the area.

A local resident spotted the animal Thursday and called police. Detective Jake Bernotas said an officer attempted to catch the monkey but it escaped into a marsh, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Tuesday.

Chief Gary Bach said that no monkeys have been reported missing in the area, but that may be because its owner does not want to face penalties for failing to register an exotic pet. Bach said the monkey may have been set free during burglaries at a neighboring apartment complex, the newspaper said.

The Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County has been searching for the animal.

Police have arrested two suspects -- a married couple -- in the burglaries. They were caught allegedly driving in a golf cart taken from the apartment complex and stolen items were allegedly found at their home, Detective Jim Komar told the Journal-Sentinel.

Story here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Monkeys on Cocaine

The presence of a particular brain receptor is likely to influence the possibility that an individual will become, and remain, addicted to cocaine, opening a promising new front in treatment options.

Researchers working under the leadership of Michael A. Nader, Ph.D., a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine, examined the level of a specific type of dopamine receptor in rhesus monkeys that had never before been exposed to cocaine in order to determine how this level influenced the monkeys’ reactions to subsequently administered cocaine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that, like many other neurotransmitters, moves between nerve cells in the brain. It is sent by the end of one nerve cell and received by the receptor of a neighboring nerve cell in order to deliver a particular message. When there is an excess level of dopamine in the brain, “transporter” cells, which return unused dopamine to the sender nerve, intervene to restore balance.

Researchers believe that cocaine interrupts the work of “transporter” cells, thereby leaving an excess amount of dopamine in the space between nerve cells, causing what is known as a cocaine high. Nerve cells react to the excess of dopamine by reducing their number of receptors, specifically, D2 receptors.

Past tests comparing D2 receptor levels in rhesus monkeys (known as effective models for human drug users) which had been exposed to cocaine versus control monkeys, revealed that cocaine use did indeed reduce D2 levels. However, no test had ever been conducted comparing the levels of D2 receptors in the same monkeys before and after they were exposed to cocaine.

Wake Forest researchers used positron emission topography (PET) to measure the initial amount of D2 dopamine receptors in several rhesus monkeys, administered cocaine to the monkeys and then examined how the monkeys reacted to the drug. Monkeys with lower initial levels of D2 receptors tended to consume more cocaine, suggesting that their addiction to the drug was stronger than that of monkeys with a greater initial number of D2 receptors.

According to the researchers “these findings provide unequivocal evidence for a role of [dopamine] D2 receptors in cocaine abuse and suggest that treatments aimed at increasing levels of D2 receptors may have promise for alleviating drug addiction.”

At present, there no method has been established to increase dopamine D2 receptor levels. However, the study did suggest that stress reduction could prove effective, as stress has also been shown to reduce D2 receptor levels. Furthermore, previous Wake Forest investigations have linked stress with an inclination to consume cocaine.

Story here.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Malaysian zoo holds on to Indonesian orangutans

A Malaysian zoo is still holding an endangered orangutan allegedly abducted from Indonesia, but government officials said Thursday they were doing their best to satisfy protesters calling for the ape's return.

Wildlife activists have called for the primate to be returned to Indonesia's Sumatra island since December, when six other smuggled orangutans found in a Malaysian theme park were flown to a Sumatran centre, where they underwent rehabilitation before being freed into a jungle reserve.

Malaysian authorities are "in the process" of securing the release of the orangutan, which has lived in a state-run zoo in Johor state for several years, said Misliah Mohamed Basir, the Wildlife and National Parks Department's enforcement director.

"We have been trying our best to expedite this, and Indonesia understands the situation," Misliah said, declining to give a reason for the delay or to say when the apes might be returned. "There is no hidden agenda."

Johor Zoo manager Zakaria Razali said the orangutan - the zoo's only such animal - remained healthy and was on display. He did not say why the zoo has not surrendered the ape, saying it was a state government decision.

The orangutan and seven others found separately in a Malaysian private park were reportedly DNA-tested and discovered to be a Sumatran subspecies last year after conservation groups sounded concerns about where they had come from. The return of the other six apes to Indonesia's jungles had been hailed as a great stride toward regional cooperation to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.

Story here.

Socializing helped Ebola wipe out gorillas

Social contact helped the Ebola virus virtually wipe out a population of gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, French researchers reported on Monday.

A 2004 outbreak of the virus, which also kills people, killed 97 percent of gorillas who lived in groups and 77 percent of solitary males, Damien Caillaud and colleagues from the University of Montpellier and the University of Rennes in France reported.

Overall, it wiped out 95 percent of the gorilla population within a year, they reported in the journal Current Biology.

"Thousands of gorillas have probably disappeared," they wrote.

The study shows that the deadly virus spreads directly from gorilla to gorilla and does not necessarily depend on a still-unidentified third species of animal, perhaps a bat, that can transmit the virus without getting ill from it.

It also may shed light on how early humans evolved, they suggested. The findings may show that pre-humans were slow to live in large social groups because disease outbreaks could wipe out those who did.

Ebola hemorrhagic fever is one of the most virulent viruses ever seen, killing between 50 percent and 90 percent of victims. The World Health Organization says about 1,850 people have been infected and 1,200 have died since the Ebola virus was discovered in 1976.

WHO and other experts say people probably start outbreaks when they hunt and butcher chimpanzees. The virus is transmitted in blood, tissue and other fluids.

Story here.

Why Gorillas Eat Rotting Wood

After observing mountain gorillas in Uganda for nearly a year, scientists believe they have discovered why the animals eat decayed wood and lick tree stumps, behaviors that have puzzled primate researchers for decades.

The answer: for the sodium.

Gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda will suck on wood chips for several minutes before spitting them. Sometimes they chew on them until their gums bleed. They have also been seen licking the bases of tree stumps and the insides of decayed logs, and breaking off pieces of wood to munch on later. Gorillas will return daily to the same stump and take turns feeding.

Baffled researchers figured maybe the wood was providing some kind of medicinal benefit, by reducing parasites and gastric upsets.

A new study by Cornell University researchers potentially solves the mystery. The researchers observed 15 gorillas of different ages and gender as they engaged in wood-eating activities. After the animals were gone, the researchers collected wood samples from stumps and logs that the animals consumed as well as those they avoided. They also collected samples of other things the gorillas ate.

The researchers analyzed these items for their sodium content and found that the decayed wood was the source of over 95 percent of the animal's dietary sodium, even though it represented only about 4 percent of their wet weight food intake.

"Other researchers have observed wood-eating, but did not make the link with sodium intake," said study team member Alice Pell from the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University in New York.

Story here.

27-year-old bonobo dies on way to hernia surgery

p-suke hernia surgeryAn ape from a Des Moines research center has died -- right before he was supposed to undergo surgery to repair a hernia.

Scientists at the Great Ape Trust say P-Suke (PEACE-kay) was placed under anesthesia yesterday (Thursday) and taken to an animal hospital for dental x-rays.

But as health care workers were preparing to transfer P-Suke to Des Moines University for surgery, they noticed his condition had deteriorated. Attempts to reverse his condition failed.

An autopsy has been scheduled to determine why the 27-year-old bonobo died.

P-Suke arrived last year in Des Moines from Georgia State University. He was the father of four of the seven remaining bonobos at Great Ape Trust.

Story here.

Oops the monkey is found

Oops, they found the missing monkey.

Oops escaped from the Mill Mountain Zoo last Sunday. After a week on the lam, she's back where she belongs.

Zoo director Sean Greene says someone called around two o'clock today after spotting Oops in the Garden City area of Roanoke. He and animal control workers tracked her down and up a tree.

They tranquilized the monkey and were then able to bring her down safely.

Oops seemed to be in good condition and is in quarantine. She'll be quarantined for the next thirty days.

Story here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

West develops taste for gorilla meat

Meat from wild primates killed in Africa is increasingly being consumed in the west, according to a new survey.

Published in the New Scientist, the University of California study found that illegal markets exist in major western cities including London, New York and Paris.

Primate meat on sale, which counts for a third of the illegal international trade in bushmeat, includes chimpanzee, gorilla and duikers (small antelopes).

Fifteen volunteers recorded the amount of meat on sale in illegal markets in Brussels, Chicago, London, New York, Montreal, Paris and Toronto, discovering that over 6,000kg of meat passes through these markets each month.

It is thought that this figure for primate meat could be higher as customs officials in the US and UK put all illegal meat together in their reports.

"I was shocked that open markets sell large quantities of African bushmeat in major cities outside of Africa," said wildlife biologist Justin Brashares, who conducted the research.

"I have 27 records of chimpanzee and gorilla parts being sold in the markets," Mr Brashares told the New Scientist.

"In each case it was not a complete body, but a hand, leg or, in two cases, a head."

Glyn Davis, director of conservation for the Zoological Society of London, said that the bushmeat trade is huge and supports thousands of people in Africa, but is difficult to be maintained in a sustainable manner.

Although Mr Davis said that cane rats and duikers could potentially be harvested sustainably to support local people, he added that this is "very different to harvesting large mammals such as great apes and elephants" as that would be "very hard" to be sustainable.

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Zoo Atlanta gorilla gives birth

A Zoo Atlanta gorilla gave birth Thursday to the fifth western lowland gorilla born at the zoo in the past eight months.

The baby was born while the mother, Sukari, was on exhibit around 3 p.m., and a few zoo visitors who witnessed the birth alerted zoo staff, spokeswoman Susan Elliott said.

"It appears average in size and extremely healthy," Elliott said.

Gorilla mothers keep babies close to their body, so officials probably won't know the sex for three to five weeks. The baby will remain unnamed until they do.

Sukari and baby are expected to be on public exhibit this weekend, Elliott said.

Story here.

Great Ape Will Undergo Unique Surgery

A 27-year old male ape living at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines will undergo a unique surgery Friday.

Doctors will fix a hernia on P-Suke's lower abdominal wall. It's believed to be one of the first surgeries of its kind on a great ape. Experts don't know what caused the hernia, but say P-Suke doesn't seem to be in pain.

The surgery will take less than an hour and will take place at Des Moines University.

Story here.

"Oops" the monkey seen a half mile from Roanoke zoo

A little monkey that made a big escape from Roanoke's Mill Mountain Zoo early Sunday was spotted yesterday for the first time in at least two days.

The 20-pound macaque named Oops was seen eating leaves on a wooded slope behind a hospital, but she once again eluded searchers who spent nearly 90 minutes looking for her amid the thick kudzu behind Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The hospital is a half mile down the face of Mill Mountain from the zoo.

Sean Greene, the zoo's director, said he was told a patient alerted the hospital to the monkey's presence by making monkey gestures. The patient apparently was unable to speak, Greene said.

Later, a patient on the hospital's 10th floor saw the monkey and told a nurse. A hospital police officer said patients, nurses and doctors watched the monkey for up to 30 minutes before calling police. Police then called animal-control officers who called zoo officials.

Story here.

Scientists build theory on human face recognition

Monkeys recognize each other by comparing faces to a statistical average stored in their brains, not by memorizing what each individual looks like, scientists said on Wednesday. This probably applies to people, too, explaining how faces can be recognized in a fraction of a second, they said.

In their study, the scientists found that a monkey's brain does not keep track of different parts of a face, storing and then accessing the information to recognize others. Instead, it keeps a statistical average of the faces it has seen and uses it as a basis for comparison.

"When it sees a new face it compares it to this average and then it remarks upon the differences ... and that is how the face is seen," said David Leopold, of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

"It elucidates how it is possible that you can so quickly and effortlessly, in just a few hundred milliseconds, recognize faces," he added.

Leopold and his colleagues pinpointed the recognition system while studying neurons in an area of the brain called the inferotemporal cortex in two macaque monkeys that had been trained to recognize computer-generated human faces.

They monitored single neurons to understand how groups of the brain cells work together to recognize faces.

"What we found is that the neurons in this part of the monkey's brain respond in a way that is extremely sensitive to the small differences in information between faces of different identities," said Leopold, who reported the research in the science journal Nature.

The activity of the neurons was monitored as the monkeys were shown an average face of a person and as it was artificially morphed the full identity.

"The main finding was a striking tendency for neurons to show tuning that appeared centered about the average face," Leopold writes in the journal.

In psychological tests, humans identify faces in much the same way as monkeys so the researchers believe this aspect of the visual recognition system is similar in both species.

Story here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Second D.C. zoo gorilla dies in 3 days

dead gorillasStaff at Washington`s National Zoo is perplexed and in mourning over the death of a second adult male gorilla in the past three days.

Saturday, a male named Kuja died as veterinary surgeons tried to implant a device similar to a pacemaker to improve the functioning of his failing heart.

After his death, it was decided to introduce the other adult, named Mopie, into the family group of gorillas, as groups without males tend to experience social problems, zoo spokeswoman Peper Long told the Washington Post.

Like Kuja, 460-pound Mopie also had cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that is a leading cause of death among captive male gorillas, but Long said staff hadn`t seen any indications his condition had reached the stage of heart failure.

Soon after his introduction into the group on Monday, 'he collapsed and died,' Long said.

She said results of the autopsy could take several weeks to be finalized.

The zoo`s only surviving male gorillas are young brothers Kwame, 6, and Kojo, 4.

Story here.

Monday, July 03, 2006

National Zoo Gorilla Died During Heart Surgery

A 23-year-old gorilla has died while undergoing heart surgery at the National Zoo.

Kuja, was suffering from chronic heart disease that was diagnosed during an examination last month.

On Wednesday veterinarians began to assemble a team of specialists in an effort to implant a sophisticated cardiac device in the ailing animal.

This morning, while performing the surgery, the gorilla’s condition worsened. All efforts to save the animals life were not successful.

Kuja, was one of two dominant males at the zoo. Since his arrival, Kura was fathered two male gorillas.

Zoo officials believe the heart problems could be caused by a problem with his immune system, or a virus.

Story here.

Ukrainian diplomats smuggling chimps in luggage?

What is a UN peacekeeper doing with a live chimpanzee in his baggage? When challenged on leaving Sierra Leone last year, the Ukrainian national in question claimed diplomatic immunity. He continued on his way, taking the chimp with him.

Wendy Jackson of Lincoln University in New Zealand is gathering reports on national diplomats and UN staff trafficking endangered wildlife. "I had a lot of problems getting people to talk to me," says Jackson, who revealed her findings on 26 June when the Society for Conservation Biology met in San Jose, California.

Trafficking by diplomats is only a small part of the illegal wildlife trade, Jackson believes. The true extent of the problem is hard to determine because of the protection diplomats enjoy.

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, some of the worst offenders come from North Korea. In 1999, for instance, Kenyan authorities confiscated 689 kilograms of ivory from an individual travelling on a North Korean diplomatic passport.

Story here.

Monkey On Run In Virginia After Zoo Escape

A Virginia zoo official said he hopes an escaped monkey is getting hungry -- and will be easier to catch.

Zoo workers are trying to find a Japanese macaque that escaped Saturday from the Mill Mountain Zoo. They said the female monkey may be looking for some breakfast after spending the night in the woods.

The 20-pound furry, light brown monkey is named Oops because the other monkeys at the zoo weren't supposed to reproduce.

The education curator at the zoo said he thinks she is staying in a nearby forest so she can be in earshot of her family in the zoo. The official said searchers heard the monkey all day Saturday as they searched the forest.

Oops escaped when the animals were being moved from their holding cells to the exhibit to be fed and cleaned.

Zoo education curator David Jobe said he is not sure how it happened -- either someone made a mistake "or a piece of equipment malfunctioned."

Oops is 11 years old and the youngest of four so-called snow monkeys at the zoo.

Jobe said this is Oops' first trip out of the zoo, and the first animal to escape the zoo's grounds in its 55-year history. Workers don't think she'll wander too far from her family.

Story here.