Thursday, November 30, 2006

Monkey Spit and Chewed Leaves Make A Great Deodorant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Monkeys Feast In Lopburi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Chimps have distinctive grunts for different kinds of food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Chimp Victim Sues Wildlife Trust

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Three New Species of World's Smallest Primate

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Worker finds monkey’s face on coconut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Kick-boxing orangutans head home from Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Male Chimps Prefer Older Females

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Chimp Haven gets seven chimps from embattled San Antonio facility

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Clever Bonobo Again Triggers Fire Alarm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Human brain genes differ widely from those of chimps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ben the Gorilla Drowns at Jacksonville Zoo

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

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

Craig Miller is the zoo's curator of mammals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grief counselors have even been called in to help.

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

Story here.

Stowaway monkey presumed dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild monkeys could carry rabies or simian encephalitis.

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

Story here.

Monkey form of HIV may be endemic in wild gorillas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Orangutans flee Indonesia forest fires

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ship told: catch or kill rogue monkey

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

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

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

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

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

It has not been seen for almost three days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Monkey shuts down island for seven hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.