Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monkeys Almost As Proficient As College Students At Math

macaques mathA college education doesn't give you much of an edge over a monkey when it comes to doing some basic arithmetic, according to a study released Monday that underscores the surprising mental agility of our simian relatives.

In a rapid fire test of mental addition, monkeys performed almost as well as college students, showing they're no slouches when it comes to number crunching.

The macaques got their sums right 76 percent of the time, while the students got the correct answer 94 percent of the time in a series of increasingly challenging maths tests.

"We know that animals can recognize quantities, but there is less evidence for their ability to carry out explicit mathematical tasks, such as addition," said Jessica Cantlon, a researcher at Duke University Center for Cognitive Neuroscience in Durham, North Carolina.

"Our study shows that they can."

The study in the Public Library of Science Biology comes just a couple of weeks after Japanese researchers revealed that young chimps outperformed college students in tests of short-term memory.

The young chimps surprised the Japanese investigators by being able to retrace patterns of numbers flashed up on a computer screen faster than their human rivals.

The current study, according to researchers, goes one step further by showing that primates can process information as well as reproduce it, and that there's more to our closest living relatives than "monkey see, monkey do."

It also suggests that basic arithmetic may be part of our shared evolutionary past.

"Humans have some pretty sophisticated problem-solving skills, but this study suggests they may also be able to tap into some primitive method of making calculations," said Cantlon.

She said the assumption is that the monkeys are using the same kind of primitive non-verbal mathematics.

For the test, the monkeys and students were seated at a computer and shown a screen with a certain amount of dots, followed by a screen with another amount of dots.

The third screen contained two boxes, one containing the sum of the first two sets of dots, and one containing a different number. The monkeys were rewarded with the soft drink, Kool-Aid, for selecting the box containing the correct sum of the sets.

The students were told not to verbally count the dots.

The average response time for both the college students and the macaques was one second, and at least in one other respect, their performance was surprisingly similar.

Both the monkeys and the students took longer to make a choice and made more mistakes when the two choice boxes were close in number.

"We call this the ratio effect," said Cantlon. "What's remarkable is that both species suffered from the ratio effect at virtually the same rate."

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Thai Authorities Hunt For Baby-Killing Monkey

A female monkey that bit a two-month-old baby to death was still on the run

Officials from agencies and foundations searched bushes in Samut Sakhon's Krathum Baen district where the monkey was briefly sighted.

"We are trying to catch it as soon as possible to reduce local people's worry," said Siriwat Paowongsa, head of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department's wildlife protection division.

Siriwat said people had described the monkey as "rather fierce". He had received a report that the monkey once attacked a worker at a scrap shop where it was raised.

The monkey had been kept at the shop for years but it went missing about a week ago. On Thursday, it bit Pongnarin Iamsam-ang while he was lying unattended in a cradle. Sustaining serious wounds to his head, he died from his injuries at Srivichai 3 Hospital later in the day.

Pongnarin's cremation took place yesterday. His mother, Noojan Pangrad, was advised to hold the cremation right away because she did not have the money for a funeral service.

The monkey's owner, Ruchakorn Tipnet, yesterday gave Noojan Bt10,000 towards the cost of the cremation.

Noojan owes more than Bt50,000 to the hospital for the treatment given to her baby.

Krathum Baen Police Station inspector Lt-Colonel Pramote Aksornphan said Ruchakorn would face criminal and civil charges.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Monkey Day!

monkey pictures
Happy Monkey Day!

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Ebola Outbreak Caused By Eating Monkeys

Four months since the deadly Ebola fever broke out in western Uganda, there is still no clear explanation of where the original victim contracted the virus from. But government now believes the outbreak may have come as a result of people eating monkey meat.

Officials in Bundibugyo district were by press-time still noncommittal about what sparked off the current outbreak. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Elias Byamungu, said that investigations were continuing, while Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Samuel Kazinga, who chairs the district's Ebola Task Force, promised to make the information public once investigations were complete.

Tracing this "index case" is important to scientists trying to understand exactly where the Ebola virus hides between outbreaks. Knowing this natural reservoir would help the country cope better with any future outbreaks.

Initial reports said that the first victims had eaten a dead goat suspected to have been bitten by a monkey. But speaking in Kampala last week, President Yoweri Museveni cast doubts at monkey-goat theory, suggesting instead that the initial victims might have eaten a monkey.

This appears to be the official view. The minister of State for Health, Emmanuel Otaala, said early this week that investigators had failed to find any trace of the goat suspected to have been bitten by the monkey.

"We tried to trace for the skin of the said goat but in vain," Otaala said by telephone. "So we think the victims actually ate the monkey. And you see Ebola is not known to stay in goats but it can affect primates like monkeys."

The Ministry of Health says the strain of Ebola in Bundibugyo and Kabarole is different from previous types identified in Zaire, Ebola Sudan, Ebola Ivory Coast and Ebola Reston (USA). Medical authorities suggest that this latest strain of Ebola may not be as lethal as previous ones and should not be hard to contain.

Ebola is a highly infectious viral disease without a cure - characterised by fever, joint pains, vomiting and bleeding, among other symptoms. In most outbreaks, up to 70 percent of those infected die.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chimpanzees Don't Go Through Menopause

Researchers have found no evidence that chimpanzees in the wild undergo menopause in the way that women do, according to a new report published online on December 13th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. That’s despite the fact that reproduction tends to peter out at a similar age in both species.

“It is important to distinguish reproductive senescence, which is something animals are expected to experience if they live long enough, from menopause, which is a very unique trait that occurs because reproductive function declines much more rapidly than declines in other bodily systems,” said Melissa Emery Thompson of Harvard University. “This study of reproductive senescence indicates that chimpanzees do not routinely experience menopause.”

Therefore, she continued, scientists will have to “look to other unique features of human biology and socioecology to help explain why humans have menopause.”

Human menopause is remarkable in that reproductive deterioration is markedly accelerated relative to the aging of the rest of the body, leaving an extended post-reproductive period for many women, the researchers said. The explanation for that pattern has remained unclear, in part because comparative data from closely related species had been inadequate. Earlier studies of chimpanzees are based on very small samples and have not provided clear conclusions about the fertility of aging females, she said. And those studies have not examined whether reproductive declines in chimpanzees exceed the pace of general aging, as in humans, or occur in parallel with declines in overall health, as in many other animals.

To remedy those problems, Emery Thompson teamed up with researchers from six long-term chimpanzee research sites across Africa. “By combining our data, we were able to examine the effects of age on fertility rates in chimpanzees,” she said.

They found that chimpanzee and human birth rates show similar patterns of decline after the age of 40, suggesting that the “biological clock” has been relatively conserved over the course of human evolution. However, in contrast to humans, chimpanzee fertility tends to drop along with their chances of surviving, with healthy females maintaining high birth rates late into life.

“When we look at only the healthiest individuals, it looks like chimpanzees may actually be reproducing better than humans in their forties,” Thompson said. “The oldest chimpanzee known to give birth in the wild is estimated to have been 55. She began reproductive cycling again shortly before her death at the age of 63.”

They thus find no evidence that menopause is a typical characteristic of chimpanzee life histories.

“The adaptive significance of human menopause, or post-reproductive lifespan, is still debated,” the researchers concluded. “This study provides greater evolutionary context to this debate.” Along with recent data from wild gorillas and orangutans, the findings in chimpanzees indicate that “menopause is not a part of the life cycle of living apes but has been uniquely derived in the human lineage.”

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PETA Targets Homeland Security Agency On Chimp Research

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals targeted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for submitting chimps to biological agents.

PETA said in a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff a government program called Project BioShield was unethical, USA Today reported Thursday.

"I urge you to put an immediate end to this completely unnecessary abuse of chimpanzees," Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, said in the letter.

Project BioShield is a multi-agency program conducting tests on chimpanzees to develop treatments for anthrax, smallpox or other deadly pathogens. The National Institute of Health hosts the research in the program.

PETA said the bone marrow extractions employed in the test are unnecessary because the Food and Drug Administration has antibodies for anthrax and other pathogens.

A representative for the Department of Homeland Security referred all questions to the NIH because the department has nothing to do with medical testing, USA Today said.

Don Ralbovsky with the NIH, who said he also received letters from PETA, said the program adheres to all laws and regulations against animal testing "to ensure (the chimps) are used in the smallest numbers possible and with the greatest commitment to their comfort."

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Taronga Zoo Welcomes Baby Gorilla

baby gorilla
gorilla baby
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A doting mother and a dad, who couldn't hide his pride, melted Sydney's heart yesterday by parading their newborn for the first time.

Australia's youngest gorilla was welcomed into the world at Taronga Zoo in a flurry of excitement after a visitor noticed the blood on mum Frala's brown coat.

Within an hour, a small army of vets and keepers had descended on the gorilla enclosure to catch a glimpse of the 2kg baby boy.

Taronga's primate supervisor Louise Grossfeldt rushed from home when she got the call, but the family of Western Lowland Gorillas was calm and relaxed by the time she arrived.

"She still had the umbilical cord attached when we came in, but that's normal," Ms Grossfeldt said.

And the baby boy had a strong grip and healthy colour – a good sign for a species that has a 30-40 per cent infant mortality rate.

"The infants when born are just as fragile (as human babies)," Ms Grossfeldt said.

Frala, 26, has given birth six times, but only four of her children have survived.

And if the newborn, who is yet to be named, takes after his father Kibabu he will be popular with the girls later on in life.

"(Kibabu) is the most attractive gorilla in the world," Ms Grossfeldt said. "He's very sexy."

The six-foot, 210-kilogram child of the 70s has sired 13 children and is the Taronga clan's resident silverback – the dominant male and leader.

"Behaviourally, he's perfect," Ms Grossfeldt said. "He's a little bit distant towards the keepers, a little bit aloof. And he'll play with his kids. He is an amazing gorilla," she said.

"He allows the females to gang up on him and he could inflict severe pain if he wanted to."

Frala likes to give her children room to roam.

"Her mothering techniques are a little different to the others," Ms Grossfeldt said. "She makes her kids confident and independent."

Kibabu and Frala's new son, who joins his four-year-old brother Fataki at the zoo, will feed on breast milk alone for around eight months before being introduced to vegetarian solids the rest of his family enjoys.

But gorillas also continue to supplement their diet with breast milk up until the age of four.

He will start to stretch out and crawl from about five months.

Taronga's Western Lowland Gorilla family could eventually be vital to the survival of their species.

Experts fear as much as 90 per cent of the remaining 140,000-strong wild population, which is native to central Africa, could have been wiped out by the devastating Ebola virus.

Taronga, on Sydney's leafy north shore, is home to eight of the species.

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Ice Ages And Rivers May Have Affected Gorilla Diversification

gorilla diversificationGeography and historical climate change may have both played a major role in gorilla evolutionary diversification, according to a new genetic study by Cardiff University and the University of New Orleans.

The collaborative School of Biosciences study shows that the genetic composition of gorilla populations varies across different parts of their current geographic range and that this variation may be tied to Ice Age climate change and river barriers.

Professor Mike Bruford, School of Biosciences said: "This wide ranging variation is a crucial consideration given the current catastrophic decline of great apes throughout Central Africa, current climate change patterns and the need to develop strategies to protect remaining populations from extinction."

Using DNA data extracted from shed hair and faeces, the researchers found that regional differences in gorillas may have been shaped by Ice Age forest "refugia" that harboured remnants of suitable habitat and rivers that pose barriers to gorilla movement in the western Congo basin.

At high latitudes, expanding ice sheets forced some species into ice-free 'refugia' from which they evolved differences from one another. In contrast, the colder, drier climates experienced in the tropics led to the contraction of continuous forest into isolated pockets.

Geographic-based computer analyses also indicates that the genetic differences between gorilla populations is explained, in part, by the distance gorillas need to travel around river barriers, since in common with other large primates, they cannot cross large rivers.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

'Monkey Gods' Snatched One Too Many Children, Placed Into Animal Orphanage

The residents of Padvi village, about 78 km away from here, can breathe a sigh of relief now. A 'monkey' threat to their kids has come to an end thanks to employees of the animal orphanage in the Rajiv Gandhi zoological park here.

According to the villagers, the monkey was lifting small children only to keep them on trees without doing any harm. "About six months ago villages spotted two male and female monkeys. They were treated as gods and provided with food regularly. However, things changed after the male monkey started lifting small children and keep them on trees," orphanage director Neelamkumar Khaire told TOI on Saturday.

Three children were lifted by the monkey three months ago. Villagers informed the forest department, which approached the orphanage. "According to the villagers, the monkey never injured any child, but only kept them with itself. After frequent incidents, fear had gripped the villagers," Khaire said.

On Friday, "we kept a puppy under the tree on which the monkey was usually seen. Within a few minutes, it came down to lift the puppy and we shot a tranquilliser at him."

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Critically Endangered Grey Gibbons Dies

bobby jean grey gibbonThe oldest Javan Moloch gibbon in captivity has died at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo at the age of 50.

Dying of natural age-related problems earlier this week, the lesser ape named Bobby-Jean was one of the last of her species.

Also known as the silvery or grey gibbon, Hylobates moloch is native to the island of Java, Indonesia, and is critically endangered.

With only 40 left in captivity at seven zoos outside of Java, and a declining wild population of 350 due to loss of habitat from logging, poaching and the establishment of plantations, primate experts said the species could be lost from the wild within 40 years.

Bobby-Jean was captured in Java in 1958 and arrived at the Winnipeg zoo in Western Canada in 1964, at the same time as her mate Billy-Joe.

The pair produced nine surviving offspring, which were sent to Australia, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany and California to participate in a formal breeding program.

Zoo officials said Bobby-Jean, the oldest silvery gibbon on record, enjoyed observing visitors with a mirror, which she manipulated to look over her shoulder.

"She will be greatly missed by staff and numerous visitors, who always made a point to stop and chat with this appealing and gentle zoo resident," officials said.

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Indonesia Launches Plan To Save Orangutan Habitat Threatened By Development

orangutan habitatIndonesia launched a program on Monday to save its dwindling orangutan population, the last of Asia's great apes, from the brink of extinction by protecting its vast tropical rain forests.

Orangutans once ranged the region, but the shaggy brown primate's population in Indonesia has been decreasing rapidly as its habitat in Borneo and Sumatra has been disrupted by illegal logging, forest fires and the illegal pet trade.

A recent WWF report said climate change would add to the pressure already caused by human-induced activities such as massive conversion of forests into plantations by reducing the orangutans' food stock. Thousands will be driven out of forests into villages and plantations to look for food.

"In the last 35 years about 50,000 orangutans are estimated to have been lost as their habitats shrank. If this continues, this majestic creature will likely face extinction by 2050," President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the launch of an orangutan conservation plan at the climate talks in Bali.

"The fate of the orangutan is a subject that goes to the heart of sustainable forests ... To save the orangutan we have to save the forest."

As part of the orangutan conservation plan developed by the forestry ministry and NGOs, Indonesia will aim to stabilize orangutan populations and habitat from now until 2017 and return orangutans housed in rehabilitation centers to the wild by 2015.

A 2004 survey showed there were around 60,000 orangutans left in the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra. Some ecologists say the country has lost 3,000 orangutans a year since the 1970s and the species could eventually become extinct.

"As much as 1 million hectares of orangutan habitat scheduled for conversion to oil palm will be saved through the plan's implementation," Erik Meijaard, a scientist with The Nature Conservancy which will help implement the plan, said in a statement..

"This could lead to 9,800 orangutans being saved and prevent 700 million tons of carbon from being released."

Indonesia is one of few countries that still has swathes of rainforests left, and is pushing a proposal to make emission cuts from protecting forests eligible for carbon trading.

Even though it has lost an estimated 70 percent of its original frontier forest, it still has a total forest area of more than 225 million acres, with a host of exotic plants and animals waiting to be discovered.

Indonesia's forests are a massive natural store of carbon, but environmentalists say rampant cutting and burning of trees to feed the pulp, timber and palm oil sectors has made the country the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.

"If payments for avoided deforestation become an official mechanism in global climate agreements, then carbon buyers will likely compensate Indonesia for its forest protection," said The Nature Conservancy's Meijaard.

"Protecting orangutans will then lead to increased economic development in this country. Such a triple-win situation is not a dream. With some political will, it can soon be reality."

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Judge Orders Armani Returned to Owner

monkey returnedA judge has ordered that a pet capuchin monkey that was seized by Montgomery County authorities in May must be returned to its owner.
Circuit Court Judge Terrance McGann ruled Monday. He did not give a timeline for the county to give Armani back to Elyse Gazewitz.

County authorities seized Armani, citing public health laws that prohibit monkeys and other wild animals to be kept as pets.

ABC 7 News myTAKE - What's Your Opinion?Gazewitz referred to the monkey as her baby and dressed Armani in Huggies diapers - with holes cut out for his tail - and a $4,000 bedroom.

While authorities argued against returning Armani, more than 1,000 people showed their support on Gazewitz's Web site, http://www.armaniswishlist.com.

Armani is being held at the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo in Frederick County. The judge also ruled that the county must reimburse Gazewitz for the estimated $1,400 a month in costs to house Armani.

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Sick Of Monkeys Running Amok, Puerto Rico Sends Them To Florida For Study

puerto rico monkeysPuerto Rico officials have a new plan to solve their monkey problem: export them to Central Florida.

About 30 patas monkeys have been shipped to the Florida International Teaching Zoo in Sumter County as part of a larger strategy to capture, neuter, track and export packs of monkeys that have invaded the island from a defunct research facility.

The head of the teaching zoo has committed to taking at least 300 monkeys and finding homes for them with zoological organizations around the world.

"These are animals that could become an endangered species soon in their native Africa because they are being aggressively hunted for food," said Mark Wilson, director of the nonprofit facility that trains zookeepers and other animal workers.

"Our goal is to try and breed some groups now to have a genetic base for future generation of patas monkeys."

Farmers in Puerto Rico's rich Lajas agricultural valley have been calling for the extermination of the monkeys, which have destroyed crops since they first escaped from an abandoned monkey-research facility 27 years ago. Some estimate there are 2,000 monkeys in the valley, causing millions of dollars in crop damage.

Government officials have come up with a $1.8 million plan that includes neutering some monkeys and releasing them back into the wild. Others will be fitted with radio transmitters to facilitate the capture of more members of their pack. And more monkeys will be relocated to zoos around the world.

Some fear the government's plan will take decades to get rid of the monkeys. In the meantime, they are running amok in Puerto Rico.

There are monkeys everywhere in Lajas valley. Monkeys in the fruit and vegetable fields. Monkeys in the banana trees. Monkeys swimming in backyard pools. Monkeys crawling over moving cars.

"They are a pest, a terrible plague," said Georgie Ferrer, a local farmer. "After years of dealing with them, we've had it."

Puerto Rico has no native monkeys. These are the descendants of primates used for medical investigations on small islands less than a half-mile from Lajas. The animals were abandoned when the experiments, funded by the U.S. Health Department, ended in the late 1970s.

But the monkeys found their way to the mainland almost as soon as they were abandoned and began to do what monkeys do: eat and reproduce. The fertile agricultural valley provided the packs with a steady diet of Caribbean pumpkins, melons, bananas and mangoes.

"They are a very destructive bunch," said Ferrer, a local leader advocating eradication of the monkeys. "When they reach a crop they like, they'll take chomps off the one fruit or vegetable and move on to the next one. They can destroy an entire crop in an hour or less."

The packs can be as large as 70 monkeys, Ferrer said.

Herenio Lopez said he was driving his Jeep through his cattle farm when he ran into a monkey caravan. The males attacked the car and climbed on it. They shrieked and pounded the windows while showing their fangs.

"There were monkeys everywhere," Lopez said.

In September, a pack of monkeys broke into a house to take a dip in the pool. The family -- who taped it with a video camera -- was awakened by the uninvited guests having a pool party at dawn.

Initially, the farmers were afraid of the monkeys. Most of them had never seen one up close. Word quickly spread that these monkeys had been used for medical experiments, which gave life to wild rumors: The monkeys had AIDS; the Pentagon had trained them to kill; some had their brains removed like zombies.

But now the farmers have begun to fight back with bullets, rocks and sticks.

The government is urging them to not kill the animals but rather capture them and turn them over to authorities.

The Department of Natural Resources, the lead agency in the eradication efforts, says it has captured about 60 so far.

"It's going to be hell if you just come in and shoot them," said the agency's secretary, Javier Velez Arocho. "You will disperse the colonies and push them into the mountains. If they make it there, you can pretty much forget about catching them."

Wilson, head of the Sumter County teaching zoo, agreed with Velez Arocho.

"They will do tremendous damage to the native jungle vegetation," Wilson said. "I understand the farmers' predicament, but killing monkeys will only make their problems worse."

Velez Arocho estimated that it will take about a decade to bring the monkey population down to a manageable number. The farmers are unimpressed.

"I captured two in 25 minutes with three mangoes and an old cage," Ferrer said. "We don't have years."

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Monkey Motor Planning Is Similar To Humans

A tamarin grasping the stem of a plastic champagne glass to pull the glass from the apparatus in order to extract a marshmallow stuck inside the glass. In (a), the monkey exhibits the thumb-up grasp orientation, and in (b), the monkey exhibits the thumb-down grasp orientation. (Credit: Dan Weiss, Pennsylvania State University)How many times a day do you grab objects such as a pencil or a cup? We perform these tasks without thinking, however the motor planning necessary to grasp an object is quite complex. The way human adults grasp objects is typically influenced more by their knowledge of what they intend to do with the objects than the objects' immediate appearance. Psychologists call this the “end-state comfort effect,” when we adopt initially unusual, and perhaps uncomfortable, postures to make it easier to actually use an object.

For example, waiters will pick up an inverted glass with their thumb pointing down if they plan to pour water into the glass. While grabbing thumb-down may feel awkward at first, it allows the waiter to be more comfortable when the glass is turned over and water poured inside.

Does this occur because motor planning abilities were crucial in facilitating the evolution of complex tool use in humans? If so, then we might predict that only humans would show this ability. Or perhaps this ability would be evidenced in humans and other tool-using species. The way to test this hypothesis, then, is to test whether this is something that other animals, non-tool users, would do.

Pennsylvania State University psychologists, Dan Weiss, Jason Wark, and David Rosenbaum decided to see if cotton-top tamarins (non-tool users) would show the end-state comfort effect. In the first experiment, Weiss and colleagues presented the monkeys with a small cup containing a marshmallow. The cup was either suspended upright or upside down. Would these monkeys, a non-tool using species, adopt an unusual grasping pattern while removing the cup from the apparatus to retrieve the marshmallow?

The results, which appear in the December issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, are fascinating. The monkeys grabbed the inverted cup with their thumb pointing down, thereby behaving much like human adults. In the second experiment, the monkeys were confronted with a new handle shape and still displayed grasps that were consistent with end-state comfort.

This research is the first to provide evidence for more sophisticated motor planning than has previously been attributed to a nonhuman species. The authors suggest that formulating relatively long-term motor plans is a necessary but not sufficient condition for tool use. “Our results may be taken to suggest that the reason tamarins don’t use tools in the wild is not that they lack the ability to plan ahead, but rather that the scope of their planning is limited,” say the researchers.

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Rare Colobus Monkey Celebrates First Birthday At Oregon Zoo

delu monkeyThe Oregon Zoo is celebrating the first birthday of Delu, its baby colobus monkey, on Friday, Dec. 21, and zookeepers are throwing her a party. Visitors can help celebrate the occasion, while learning more about the issues that threaten this rare monkey in the wild. The birthday party and keeper chat are slated for 10:30 a.m.

Delu has done extremely well her first year of life, according to Africa Keeper Liz Zimmerman, and she has achieved several milestones. The young colobus has weaned herself from her mother's milk and has lost her pure-white baby coloring. She is now a striking black-and-white, similar to
her parents.

Zimmerman describes Delu as very independent: "She spends her days wrestling with her parents, Mali and Kiku, or 'Aunt' Zoe, while exploring her habitat. She also grooms the adults, which is an especially important behavior for these social animals, because it helps strengthen their relationships."

Delu is the fourth baby -- and first female -- for mother Mali, 11, and her mate, Kiku, 16.

"We chose the name Delu, because it is a Hausa word for 'the only daughter,'" says Zimmerman. Hausa is the native language for the majority of Nigeria, and is prominent across West Africa and in Ghana.

The colobus monkey is a threatened species and continues to lose habitat as humans cut down forestlands. The rare monkey is also hunted and killed -- for the bushmeat trade and for its beautiful fur -- or captured and sold as part of the illegal pet trade. Because the entire troop will try to protect an infant colobus monkey, poachers will often kill the adults to capture the infants. One solution is to support organizations and groups working to solve the bushmeat crisis. For more information, visit www.bushmeat.org.

Colobus troops are highly social, and mutual handling of infants by members other than the mother is believed to maintain the cohesiveness of the group. The monkeys usually live in a family setting, with one male, three to four females, juveniles and infants. Troops live in the forests and grasslands of central and eastern Africa. In the wild, their diet consists of flowers, fruit and leaves, but in the zoo they eat mostly vegetables. The monkey, nicknamed the "Messenger of the Gods," can usually be found climbing high up into the trees and facing the sun at dawn and dusk. Zimmerman says Delu seems keenly interested in becoming friends with her exhibit mate, a young female swamp monkey named Bleu.

"Delu will run up to Bleu, touching her softly then quickly darting away - kind of like tag, you're it!" explains Zimmerman. "Unfortunately, Bleu doesn't appear to be interested in an interspecies friendship."

The monkeys are known for their black body and white shoulders, back and beard. Unlike most primates, the colobus do not have thumbs; this is most likely an adaptation for moving through the trees quickly. The monkeys stand about 18 to 27 inches high and weigh about 12 to 32 pounds.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Moment Of Kivu's Fifth Birthday Party Zen...

kivu birthday
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kivu birthday cake

fifth birthday cake
gorilla birthday cake

Devon zoo staff helped a gorilla celebrate his fifth birthday with a homemade cake with carrots for candles.

Kivu, a Western gorilla, tucked into the cake with half-brother Kiondo.

The mixed fruit and nut cake was topped off with berries and seeds and five carrot candles. It was made by Paignton Zoo volunteer Linda Putt.

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World's Oldest Fertile Gorilla, Orang-utan Turn 50

The world's oldest fertile gorilla and orang-utan in captivity, Matze and Charly, jointly celebrated their 50th birthdays with a cake each at Frankfurt Zoo on Thursday.

Matze the gorilla was born in central Africa in 1957 and spent the first years of his life with a troupe of showmen before arriving in Frankfurt in 1962, the zoo said. Charly, born in northern Sumatra, has been at Frankfurt Zoo since 1978.

"Each received a cake made with pastry and mandarin with cream on top -- but with no sugar," zoo spokeswoman Caroline Liefke said.

Both are great grandfathers, Matze having fathered 17 children -- the latest in April -- while Charly has sired more than 18, with the offspring of both spread all over the world.

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Elderly Amorous Gorilla Put On Birth Control

amorous gorillaAn elderly but amorous female gorilla has been "put on the pill" by Belfast Zoo vets to prevent her becoming pregnant.

Although Delilah,"the grand old dame" of the zoo, is regarded as a gorilla OAP, her behaviour with her male friends continually belies her years.

The zoo's vets have now decided that a pregnancy would be too dangerous for the lively primate.

The spritely 44-year-old is one of the oldest gorillas in captivity anywhere.

Belfast Zoo manager March Challis said that although Delilah was showing signs of arthritis, she was still in great condition for her age.

"It is a reflection of the great quality of care provided by keepers and vets at Belfast Zoo that despite being one of Europe's oldest gorillas, Delilah is fit and healthy and even able to breed at her advanced age," he said.

"This demonstrates a planned and responsible approach to animal care and breeding at the zoo and ensures the continued excellence and best practice towards the welfare of all the zoo's animals, from the latest baby to Delilah, the grand old dame of the zoo."

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Chimps Briefly Escape By Snapping Enclosure Locks

chimps escapeBabu and Rani checked out of home — in true Dunston style — for half an hour on Wednesday afternoon. They roamed the grounds of Alipore Zoological Gardens, causing visitors to take to their heels.

“A male chimpanzee called Babu and a female called Rani escaped from their enclosure around 3pm after breaking open the lock,” said S.K. Chaudhuri, the director of Alipore zoo. “We fielded 25 zoo employees, including veterinarians, to chase the chimpanzees back into their enclosure.”

The zoo has four chimpanzees, with Babu and Rani as live-in partners. Witnesses alleged that a visitor had thrown a stone at one of the two chimpanzees, angering them. Babu and Rani started rattling the locked gate to their enclosure till the lock broke and they stepped out.

Swinging from branch to branch, the chimpanzees first crossed the giraffe enclosure, causing them to panic and run around in circles. One of the chimpanzees then landed among some visitors and allegedly pushed one woman and scratched another.

Kanan Das, 65, was the first ‘victim’ of the chimp attack, between the enclosure of the primates and that of the birds. “Everyone started running, but I was unable to move. One of the chimpanzees then pushed me to the ground,” she recounted. When her daughter-in-law Pompa, 42, tried to lend a helping hand the chimpanzee scratched her. “I was so scared! I had to take an injection,” said Pompa.

Director Chaudhuri claimed that the chimpanzees had not attacked anyone. “I have not heard of any such incident and I was on the spot till they were led back into the enclosure,” he said, adding that the chimpanzees must have managed to damage the lock by constantly shaking the gate.

“Animals feel disoriented on leaving their home. Babu and Rani were terrified after they left their enclosure and strayed into the crowded zoo,” said Chaudhuri. The crowd count on the winter Wednesday touched 8,000.

On December 22, 1997, a chimpanzee had managed to slip out of its enclosure and stay out the whole day. It was finally tranquillised and taken back to its enclosure.

The management board of the zoo will meet to discuss the incident. The director will suggest the use of two locks instead of one and a chain to secure the gate better. The board will also discuss methods to prevent visitors from throwing food and other articles into the enclosures. Most enclosures bear the sign “do not tease or feed wild animals”, but many visitors take a perverse pleasure in doing precisely that.

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Judge Orders Monkey Returned To Bipolar Owner In Fort Worth

monkey returnedA monkey that became caught in the middle of a battle between her owner and the Humane Society was returned home Wednesday.

Heather Grady, who is bipolar, said she depends on "Zoe," a 3.5 pound monkey, to keep her stable.

"She came to know my symptoms, and one day she brought me my medicine bottle as if to say, 'Momma, you're not right. Momma, something's wrong."

Grady said she has made mistakes. Over the summer, she went to jail for five weeks over bad check charges. During that time, Grady asked a relative to watch the monkey.

"He assured me she would be in his hands until I got home," Grady said.

However, when she got out of jail, she said the monkey was gone. Zoe's caretaker apparently became overwhelmed and was placed in the hands of the Humane Society of North Texas. And Director Tammy Hawley had no plans of giving her back to Grady.

"No, I do not," Hawley said when asked if she believed Zoe was truly a service animal.

Hawley said she is unconvinced since Zoe had already been placed at the shelter before when Grady was briefly hospitalized for her mental illness.

"We are concerned that history will repeat itself and Zoe will be left to try to fend for herself," Hawley said.

When Grady realized she couldn't convince the Humane Society, she hired an attorney to seek a restraining order..

A judge ordered the Humane Society to return Zoe Wednesday.

Hawley said she is worried about the future..

"I feel responsible that maybe I let her down," she said.

But the erratic behavior Hawley fears will endanger Zoe is the very reason Grady claims to need her.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rescued Monkeys Get Smuggled Bananas

bananasCustoms officers who seized 2.7 million cigarettes have given the bananas they were hidden among to a Dorset monkey charity as an early Christmas present.

The discovery was made at Poole ferry port early on Saturday.

The contraband was found with several hundred boxes of fruit, which has been given to Monkey World, near Wareham, where it will be fed to the animals.

The cigarettes, which were hidden to avoid £472,000 of duty, were found in a lorry arriving from Cherbourg.

Bob Gaiger, HM Revenue and Customs spokesman, said: "The disposal of over 500 boxes of bananas could have been a bit of a headache.

"But we're delighted to have found a way of putting the bananas to such a good use by giving them the primates at Monkey World as an early Christmas present."

Lou Matthews, communications manager at Monkey World, said: "We are extremely grateful to HM Revenue & Customs for this donation and the primates say a big thank you for the bananas.

"Donations such as this are always welcomed."

The Irish driver of the lorry was arrested and released on police bail until 3 March next year.

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Primate Center Cleared Of Abuse Accusation

Federal regulators have cleared the Oregon National Primate Research Center of complaints that workers routinely mistreated monkeys at the Hillsboro site.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates animal care at federally funded biomedical research facilities, sent two veterinarians to the center last week. The inspectors issued a three-sentence report, released Tuesday, which concluded, "No non-compliant items were identified during the inspection."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a national animal-rights group, filed a formal complaint with the USDA on Nov. 13. It alleged that some of the center's 4,200 monkeys suffered needlessly at the hands of center personnel.

The complaint was based on the observations of an undercover investigator for PETA, who took a job as a monkey handler at the center from April to July.

PETA accused the center of violating eight provisions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including failing to prevent monkeys from suffering trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm and unnecessary discomfort. The group also accused the center of failing to provide timely or effective veterinary care to monkeys suffering from chronic vomiting, kidney stones and other ailments.

Center officials described the accusations as outrageous propaganda by agenda-driven activists.

On Tuesday, Michael Conn, the acting head of the center's animal services division, said he thought reasonable people would take the word of USDA inspectors over unnamed animal-rights activists.

"Our business involves offering hope to people with disease," Conn said. "My colleagues and I will not be deterred by extremist organizations or those who choose to campaign based on false information and harassment."

Kathy Guillermo, PETA's director of research, said she doubted the USDA's veterinary medical officers had time to do a thorough investigation of the group's complaint. The government report said a team inspection was conducted Nov. 26-27 in response to a complaint, but the USDA also called its review a "routine inspection."

"This kind of thing usually takes them weeks or months to do," Guillermo said. "I don't know how in a two-day period all the things we alleged could be investigated."

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Congo Gorillas Threatened By Heavy Fighting

gorilla congoHeavy fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo is again threatening the region's critically endangered mountain gorillas, conservationists have said.

For three months rangers funded by Wildlife Direct have been unable to enter the gorilla zone in the Virunga National Park in the east of the country because of clashes between 20,000 Congolese soldiers and the 4,000-strong forces of ex-general Laurent Nkunda.

The 70 park rangers in the area are among around half a million people who have been internally displaced in the violence, according to the United Nations.

"In the 34 years I have been a ranger this is one of the most trying and exasperating moments," said Norbert Mushenzi, an official with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature. "We have been totally unable to do our job due to the senseless fighting."

Wildlife Direct said that heavy shelling and gunfire were a severe threat to the animal. Its director, Emmanuel de Merode, said that despite their natural shyness, gorillas habituated to humans were not known to flee the sounds of war.

"I think it's unlikely that they would move away," he said. "The situation is absolutely chaotic. There is a war going on around the mountain gorillas. We need the fighting to stop, and we need to know about the welfare of these animals. We have no real data on what's going on."

Lucy Fauveau of the Zoological Society of London said: "The security situation in North Kivu is escalating. It is simply impossible to enter the Gorilla Sector. At this point, we need to provide humanitarian assistance to the rangers who are in the worse-hit sectors."

The fighting was triggered by the breakdown of a ceasefire with Nkunda, who says he is protecting the area's Tutsi ethnic minority, It has raised fears of a return to all-out conflict in the country, where four million people died as a result of the war between 1998 and 2003.

It comes on top of what was already the worst year on record for gorilla conservation in the region. At least 10 gorillas have been killed, two in January for bush meat, allegedly by some of Nkunda's troops, and eight in June and July.

"It's an absolute catastrophe for the conservation effort in Congo," said Dr de Merode, who blamed the summer killings on interests in the local charcoal industry, which is worth an estimated £15 million a year.

"The people behind the charcoal industry have seen the effort to protect the gorillas as a threat to their trade," he said. "It comes down to the simple logic that the forest is protected for the gorillas, so by killing them they are gaining access to the forest for charcoal."

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Outrage Over Monkeys Left To Die In Wildlife Department's Trap

monkeys trapped"Yes, the trap is ours. But no, the monkeys were not supposed to be left that way and an investigation has already begun."

Wildlife and National Parks Department biodiversity conservation division director Siti Hawa Yatim was commenting on the container of monkeys found by a resident of Mont Kiara on Sunday.

"The monkeys should not have been left without food and supervision. We are investigating," she said.

"We want to know for how long and why the monkeys were abandoned there."

She added that action would be taken against the officers responsible if they were found to be negligent.

She explained the normal procedure would be to bring the trapped monkeys to the department as soon as possible.

"We feed them before releasing them into the jungle. And we don't leave them in the container for long," she said.

Yesterday, The Malay Mail reported that the Mont Kiara resident had gone to check on the screams coming from a forested area near the condominiums for several days. He found 18 monkeys in a black container with the Wildlife Department's name and telephone number painted on it.

Five were already dead. Some, one of them a baby, were sprawled on the floor dying, and the rest huddled in a corner of the container, trembling at the sight of humans. The resident claimed the monkeys had been trapped at least 10 days ago, and he believes they had not been fed since.

Siti Hawa said the trap was set because of complaints of wild monkeys from the residents in the area. She added the dead monkeys were sent for a post-mortem yesterday. The survivors will be released into the jungle soon.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Selangor (SPCA) chairperson Christine Chin said the organisation is appalled.

"The condominium management should have been more vigilant and the Wildlife Department should have better monitored the trap to save the animals from unnecessary suffering and death," she said.

SPCA public relations officer Jacinta Johnson said yesterday an SPCA inspection team went to investigate but was told by the condo management that the monkeys had been removed.

"But we found one injured male monkey about 20 metres away from the site. It was severely dehydrated and suffering from heatstroke. It also had injuries to its head and tail," she said.

The monkey has been taken to the Veterinary Services Department.

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Monkey Attacks North Carolina Store Clerk

clerk bitten by monkeyStore clerk Brooke Ross has learned a valuable lesson the hard way: Resist the urge to pet a monkey.

A man with a monkey on his shoulder patronized the Family Food Mart in Rutherford College on Sunday.

When the man, whom Ross didn't know, stepped up to the counter, the small monkey stepped off his shoulder.

Ross reached out to pet the monkey and it attacked, biting her on the right cheek near her eye.

"I thought, 'Oh, how cute.' The next thing I know I'm bleeding," Ross said.

The man told Ross the monkey has all its shots then hastily snatched up the monkey and left the store.

"It all happened so fast," Ross said. "I was just kind of shocked."

Ross was treated at an area hospital for the bite. Doctors put her on strong antibiotics, she said, and told her to keep the area clean. She has not been treated for rabies, Ross said.

Ross was back at work on Monday at a different store, the Family Food Mart in Hildebran.

Her cheek is red with scratches and a larger mark where the bite penetrated her skin.

Because the attack surprised her, Ross wasn't able to give animal control officers a description of the man or the vehicle he was driving, Ross said.

Sheriff's Lt. Steve Massey said it's not the first time he's had reports of a monkey biting someone. He said monkeys may be cute, but warned not to pet one unless the owner invites you to.

"Just leave them alone," Massey said.

Massey said most exotic animals aren't left outside so the chances of them having rabies is less likely because they're not getting exposed to the disease.

Ross was able to joke with customers on Monday about the attack. Most of her customers reacted with surprise when she told them what happened.

The next time she comes across a monkey, Ross said, "I'm running away."

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