Friday, September 28, 2007

Second Child Bitten By Monkey At Park

monkey biteKim Ritten’s 7-year-old son, Liam, was feeding popcorn to a monkey at Stephens Lake Park on Saturday when the animal bit the boy’s finger hard enough to require a trip to the Boone Hospital Center emergency room. Now, five days later, the monkey and the woman who brought it to the park are still unidentified, the health department released a report of another child possibly bitten by the same animal, and Ritten is worried about disease.

"Right now I want to find the monkey and test it for all diseases and bacteria to know that there’s nothing I need to worry about for the health of Liam," Ritten said this morning.

Yesterday, the Columbia/Boone County Health Department issued a photo of the woman and the monkey she brought to the annual Paws in the Park dog walk event and asked for the public’s help identifying her. But the health department had altered the photo to obscure woman’s face, making it impossible to see what she looked like.

"I honestly don’t know why they blurred the photo," Ritten said. "People will know this woman. A monkey looks like another monkey; it’s the lady people can recognize."

Health department spokeswoman Deidre Wood said she wanted to verify that the woman in the photo was the woman who brought the monkey to the park.

Columbia Environmental Health Manager Gerry Worley said there is no policy for events such as this because it hasn’t happened before.

"Frankly, we don’t have a history of having to do this type of investigation," he said. "We’re certainly not trying to keep anybody in the dark, but we don’t want to call a lot of attention to something just to sensationalize it."

The species of monkey at the park, believed to be a rhesus macaque, can in rare situations transmit a virus known as herpes B, also known as Simian B, which is often fatal to humans and must be treated with an antiviral within 24 hours.

Late this morning, Wood sent out a news release saying the monkey bit a second child, an 11-year-old girl, at the park.

Wood said the girl’s bite also pierced the skin.

Liam’s finger was bandaged from a bite that went "very deep" into his right ring finger, Ritten said, and he has visited the pediatrician twice since the incident. Doctors have not performed tests relating to any communicable diseases but have asked the mother and son to watch for worrisome symptoms, including headache and fever.

The bite occurred Saturday afternoon near the playground at Stephens Lake, where hundreds of people were walking dogs for the charity event. Ritten said an unidentified woman was sitting on the ground with a monkey in her lap, allowing people to feed and pet it.

Liam had a bag of popcorn and began throwing kernels at the animal to feed it. When he stopped and reached into the bag to get some for himself, Ritten said, the monkey "leaped forward" and bit the child’s finger. "I couldn’t tell if he was bit or scratched, it happened so fast, but he immediately jumped up screaming and yelling, and then I saw his finger was dripping blood," the mother said.

Ritten said the presumed owner of the monkey "mouthed the words, ‘I’m sorry’" and left the scene.

An animal control officer was sent to the park, but, Ritten said, "they talked about doing a press release and then decided not to because they were afraid she wouldn’t come forward if they did that."

The photo was submitted by someone who saw the monkey and its owner on a sidewalk downtown. Worley, who was not at the park Saturday, said suggestions that the health department has been lax are "unfair."

"We did everything we could to interview everybody we knew to be at the Paws in the Park event, asking questions of anybody who saw the monkey. We’ve followed up on every lead we could," Worley said.

The city’s Animal Control Division has received "a number" of calls but had not located the owner as of this morning.

Ritten just wants some peace of mind. "If it was an adult, it would be one thing, but it’s a 7-year-old - a little boy."

Story here.

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Dotty Recovering From Eye Surgery

dotty gorillaDr. Richard W. Hertle, of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, traveled to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, to perform eye muscle surgery on a 3-year-old Western lowland gorilla named Dotty.

Hertle is a nationally recognized expert in pediatric eye disorders including amblyopia and nystagmus.

Dotty was born at the zoo with congenital strabismus, a lack of coordination between the eyes also known as "lazy eye."

When strabismus happens in children, the brain also begins to ignore the visual input from one eye, resulting in loss of vision in the non-preferred eye.

The surgery was completed successfully Thursday. Dotty is said to be doing well and is back at the zoo's gorilla building.

Story here.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Austria's Court Refuses Chimp Human Rights

chimp rightsHe's now got a human name - Matthew Hiasl Pan - but he's having trouble getting his day in court. Animal rights activists campaigning to get Pan, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, legally declared a person vowed Thursday to take their challenge to Austria's Supreme Court after a lower court threw out their latest appeal.

A provincial judge in the city of Wiener Neustadt dismissed the case earlier this week, ruling that the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories had no legal standing to argue on the chimp's behalf.

The association, which worries the shelter caring for the chimp might close, has been pressing to get Pan declared a "person" so a guardian can be appointed to look out for his interests and provide him with a home.

Group president Martin Balluch insists that Pan is "a being with interests" and accuses the Austrian judicial system of monkeying around.

"It is astounding how all the courts try to evade the question of personhood of a chimp as much as they can," Balluch said.

A hearing date for the Supreme Court appeal was not immediately set.

The legal tussle began in February, when the animal shelter where Pan and another chimp, Rosi, have lived for 25 years filed for bankruptcy protection.

Activists want to ensure the apes don't wind up homeless if the shelter closes. Both were captured as babies in Sierra Leone in 1982 and smuggled in a crate to Austria for use in pharmaceutical experiments. Customs officers intercepted the shipment and turned the chimps over to the shelter.

Their upkeep costs about euro4,800 (US$6,800) a month. Donors have offered to help, but there's a catch: Under Austrian law, only a person can receive personal gifts.

Organizers could set up a foundation to collect cash for Pan, whose life expectancy in captivity is about 60 years. But they contend that only personhood will give him the basic rights he needs to ensure he isn't sold to someone outside Austria, where he's now protected by strict animal cruelty laws.

In April, a district court judge rejected a British woman's petition to be declared Pan's legal guardian. That court ruled that the chimp was neither mentally impaired nor in danger, the grounds required for an individual to be appointed a guardian.

In dismissing the Association Against Animal Factories' appeal this week, the provincial court said only a guardian could appeal. That doesn't apply in this case, the group contends, since Pan hasn't gained a guardian.

There is legal precedence in Austria for close friends to represent people who have no immediate family, "so he should be represented by his closest friends, as is the case," said Eberhart Theuer, the group's legal adviser.

"On these grounds we have appealed this decision to the Supreme Court in Vienna," he said.

Until this summer, the chimp was known simply as Hiasl. However, in the latest court documents, he was identified with a little more dignity - if not humanity - as Matthew Hiasl Pan, with the last name derived from "chimpanzee."

The Association Against Animal Factories points out that it's not trying to get Pan declared a human, but rather a person, which would give him some kind of legal status.

Otherwise, he is legally a thing. And with the genetic makeup of chimpanzees and humans so strikingly similar, it contends, that just can't be.

"The question is: Are chimps things without interests, or persons with interests?" Balluch said.

"A large section of the public does see chimps as beings with interests," he said. "We are looking forward to hear what the high court has to say on this fundamental question."

Story here.

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$175K Awarded To Family Of Girl Mauled By Gorilla

gorilla attackThe family of a toddler attacked by a gorilla at the Franklin Park Zoo was awarded $175,000 for pain and suffering today by a civil jury who ruled that while the ape's handlers did not act negligently, they were still liable for the girl's injuries.

After deliberating for six hours, the Suffolk Superior Court jury concluded that the zoo and its officials were not negligent when Little Joe climbed out of his enclosure on Sept. 28, 2003, and attacked Nia S. Scott, who was 2 years and 9 months old. However, as the "keepers" of a wild animal, the jury ruled that Little Joe's handlers should still compensate Scott.

Scott escaped that day with cuts and bruises, but Little Joe went on to terrorize the neighborhood near the zoo for two hours before police subdued him with tranquilizer darts. Lawyers for the plaintiffs alleged during the six-day trial that the attack inflicted long-term psychological damage that has caused Scott, now 6, nightmares, made her less outgoing, and damaged her relationship with her mother.

Terrasita Duarte-Scott filed the lawsuit on behalf of her daughter against the zoo's owner, Zoo New England, and five of its executives, including its president and chief executive officer, John Linehan, and head veterinarian, Dr. Hayley Murphy. After the verdict, Scott seemed disappointed with the verdict.

"They did what they thought was fair, but I'm speechless. Just speechless," Duarte-Scott said. "What I wanted to do was prove that they were negligent."

In addition to the money awarded to her daughter, Duarte-Scott had also sought her own financial damages, a claim that the jury rejected.

After the verdict, Linehan said that the zoo respected the jury's decision. He said the zoo's $2.3 million renovation to the Tropical Forest exhibit will ensure that Little Joe will never escape again. The gorillas are now kept in a completely enclosed glass cage that includes a stainless steel net capping the 1 1/2-inch thick glass walls.

Scott went to the zoo that day with a family friend, Courtney Roberson, who testified during the trial that she too was attacked by Little Joe. Roberson, who settled a lawsuit out of court, told the jury that she saw the gorilla slap at Scott five to eight times.

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Monkey On the Loose In Columbia

monkey looseHealth officials in Boone County are asking for help in locating a monkey that bit a 7-year-old boy this weekend at Columbia's Stephens Lake Park. The monkey was last seen with a woman Saturday near downtown Columbia.

The Health Department is interested in contacting the monkey's owner to assess the risk the child could have been exposed to disease.

KRCG News talked with Gerry Worley of the Health Department and says the boy has a slight risk of rabies, but the main concern is the possible infection of the Simian virus.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the Simian virus infects several species of monkeys and typically does not cause symptoms or disease in the animals.

However, the virus is a possible cause of cancer in humans.

If anyone has any information on how to locate the owner of the monkey, please call Animal Control at (573) 449-1888. All calls will be kept confidential.

Story here.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Orangutan snatches Tourist's Purse And Pants

orangutan pantsAn orangutan in a Malaysian wildlife sanctuary snatched a French tourist's backpack and bit her while pulling off her shoes, socks and pants, the tourist said today.

But an official denied the animal, a large ape, had bitten the woman.

The tourist, who asked to be identified only as Odile, was taking photographs Sunday of Delima — a female orangutan roaming free in Malaysia's Semenggoh Wildlife Center on Borneo island — when the animal grabbed at her backpack, said Wilfred Landong, chief park warden of Malaysia's Sarawak state.

They tussled over the bag and Delima ripped Odile's pants, Landong said.

"She had scratches and bruise marks on her knees and thighs," he said, adding that park rangers gave her medical treatment.

Odile said she had not tried to touch or otherwise harass the animal, saying she was only been trying to take its photo.

She said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that she'd let Delima have her bag after the orangutan grabbed it and then apparently searched it for something to eat, but found nothing.

She referred to Delima as "he."

"He took my shoes and socks off, and then tried to take off my trousers," Odile wrote. "As he couldn't with his hands only, he tried with his teeth and that's when I got bitten. As soon as he got my trousers he went away."

Landong said the park considered what happened to be "an accident" — not an attack. He said that Delima had only scratched Odile, and that bites would have caused more serious injuries.

"We are not faulting anyone," he said. "But we remind tourists that they should not go too near the orangutans."

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Another Gorilla Found Dead in Congo Sting

gorillaA female mountain gorilla has been found dead in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park, bringing the death toll of the rare animals to 10 so far this year, wildlife groups said Wednesday. Fighting between the Congolese army and rebels in the region has imperiled the already endangered species. Noel King has more in this report from Kigali.

A young female gorilla was found dead during a sting operation conducted this week by rangers at Congo 's Virunga National Park on a ring of gorilla traffickers.

Two members of the trafficking ring were arrested.

Conservationists say they believe the trafficking ring intended to sell the gorilla for around $8,000.

Samantha Newport, spokeswoman for conservation advocacy group, WildlifeDirect, spoke to VOA by phone from Goma in eastern Congo.

She said fighting in the region between dissident former general Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese army had chased park rangers from their stations more than three weeks ago.

Since then, rangers have been unable to monitor or track the gorillas.

"All sorts of things could have been going on in the gorilla sector," she said. "It does allow for increased lawlessness in the gorilla sector when there is fighting between the army and the rebels, because the rangers are simply prevented from doing their job."

Newport said instability in eastern Congo has dramatically threatened the population of rare gorillas in the region.

There are only around 700 of the animals left in the wild today living in Congo and neighboring Uganda and Rwanda.

Ten gorillas have been killed in Virunga national park since fighting erupted between forces loyal to Nkunda and the Congolese army. WildlifeDirect says 150 rangers have also been killed in the volatile region in the past 10 years.

Story here.

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Dotty The Gorilla To Undergo Eye Surgery

dottyA young gorilla at the Columbus Zoo was scheduled to undergo eye surgery on Thursday.

Dotty, 3, was born with a lazy eye, which could cause blindness if it is not treated, 10TV News reported.

A pediatric eye doctor from Pittsburgh was traveling to Columbus for the surgery.

Story here.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

A Moment Of Monkey Breastfeeding Zen...

monkey breastfeeding
Woman feeding her child and a monkey cub, A photograph on display in an exhibition organised by Photo Journalists Association of Ahmedabad at Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur on Saturday (SEP 22, 2007).

Story here.

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Singapore's "Magic Monkey" Trees Inspire Cult, Cynics

monkey god treeThe discovery of two "monkey heads" poking out of the bark of an otherwise non-descript African Mahogany tree have sparked a minor craze in the southeast Asian state, as devotees seek numbers from what they believe to be a god living in the tree.

Bananas, peanuts and peaches have been left as offerings to please the monkey god, sacred in Chinese mythology and Hinduism. A wheel-like device which kneeling gamblers turn by hand in front of the tree to spit out numbered balls has helped fuel the mania.

"Most people come for lottery numbers", explained Madam Kang, who had traveled half way across the island to join a crowd of a hundred onlookers milling around the tree on a weekend afternoon.

monkey god tree"There were three car accidents by the tree but no one was hurt, so people believe it was the monkey god protecting them."

Not long after the monkey god reportedly aided a series of wins, another three trees bearing gnarls that resemble gods were discovered along the same -- now jammed -- road.

Cartons of milk and more joss sticks garnish a small shrine set up in front of the elephant god Ganesha on a nearby tree, where a nobbly "elephant" head juts from the trunk.

Meters away, more onlookers snap images of a bark outline of the Chinese mercy goddess, Guan Yin, while others pat an oval bark eruption on another tree, ringed with garlands and said to be a tiger-dragon god tree.

monkey god treeDespite the sacred trees' popularity, not all are convinced.

"The uneven bark surface at the base of the tree trunk is the result of callusing, a natural reaction in which the tree grows new bark over injured areas", a spokeswoman for the National Parks Board told the official Straits Times newspaper.

Other skeptics say the concept is simply too good to be true.

"If the tree can give money, most of the people in Singapore are not going to work. They'd just go to the tree and ask for the number," laughed taxi driver Mahmud Sanusi.

"After a few months maybe somebody will find a rock, with Mickey Mouse on it," said another taxi driver Chan Chee Siong.

But for others, sacred and lucky trees are a reality.

Bamboo and wooden "wishing trees", where devotees pray and hang written wishes, are found in several Chinese temples. And small shrines, nestled into the trunks of the roadside trees, are a common sight on this verdant island.

Story here.

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London's Great Gorilla Run

gorilla run
great bikini gorilla
gorilla great run
great gorilla run
gorilla run
Hundreds of people dressed in gorilla suits have run through London to help save the animals from extinction.

Conservationist Bill Oddie started the runners on the 7km Great Gorilla Run which takes in the sights of Tower Bridge and Tate Modern.

All funds will go to the London-based charity the Gorilla Organisation which runs projects in central Africa.

Earlier this month the Western lowland gorilla was officially classified as critically endangered.

The gorilla headed the Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 published by The World Conservation Union.

Story here.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

'Hobbit' Was Distinct Species, Wrist Bones Indicate

hobbit wristAn analysis of the wrist bones of the tiny prehistoric human dubbed the "Hobbit" bolsters the theory that it was a new species of human and not some aberration of modern man, a study released Thursday said.

Scientists who examined the fossilized remains of the pint-sized human using three dimensional laser imaging say the anatomy of its wrist is primitive -- more akin to that of contemporary apes or ancient human ancestors than modern man or his immediate predecessors.

The creature's wrist lacks a modern innovation seen in homo sapiens and Neanderthals, a wrist that distributes forces away from the base of the thumb and across the wrist for better shock-absorbing abilities.

That suggests that the "Hobbit," whose remains were found on a remote Indonesian island in 2004, evolved at an earlier point in the history of mankind than either modern man or Neanderthals, the authors of the paper said.

"The wrist doesn't show the same specialization for tool behaviour as modern man or Neanderthals," said Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

"It retains the same primitive morphology as ancient hominids."

Tocheri contends these latest findings should settle once and for all the heated debate over whether the creature constitutes an entirely new human species, or whether as some critics contend, it's a pygmy or a modern human afflicted with microcephaly, a virus that stunts the growth of the brain.

"This seals the deal," said Tocheri. "Modern humans do not show up with a chimpanzee hand."

The ancient remains have stirred controversy ever since a team of Australian and Indonesian anthropologists announced their discovery in 2004.

The team that found the remains of the 1m (3ft) 18,000 year-old female on the Indonesian island of Flores claimed it was a member of a heretofore unknown species, formal name Homo floresiensis.

They speculated that it was descended from Homo Erectus or some other ancient species that reached Flores just under a million years ago and that, cut off from the rest of the world, the species evolved a small stature and a chimp-sized skull.

The notion that a human "cousin" that lived on a remote island populated by pygmy elephants and komodo dragons, and whose existence overlapped for a period with that of modern humans, caused a sensation, but some critics questioned whether the ancient bones belonged to a pygmy or a microcephalic -- a human with an abnormally small skull.

In 2005, the team that made the discovery got a boost when researchers at Florida State University who did some 3-D computer modeling of the "Hobbit's" brain case concluded that it was not a human born with microcephalia, but a new species closely related to Homo Sapiens with a highly evolved brain.

Later that year, the team that made the initial discovery announced that they had recovered bones from a total of nine individuals from the Liang Bua cave where the "Hobbit" was originally found, further shoring up their assertions.

In his paper published in the journal Science, Tocheri suggests that his work supports the theory that the miniature prehistoric species found on Flores is descended from a hominid ancestor that migrated out of Africa up to 1.8 million years ago, before the evolution of the anatomically modern wrist seen in Neanderthals and contemporary humans.

Story here.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beta The Gorilla Undergoes Tumor Surgery At Hospital

gorilla surgeryDoctors at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital have held an operation and successfully removed a fibroid tumor – on a 46-year-old gorilla from Brookfield Zoo.

Two years ago, Beta, a menopausal lowland gorilla, was brought in to a zoo veterinarian for abdominal discomfort and heavy vaginal bleeding, and was found to have a small fibroid tumor on the muscular layer of her uterus, zoo officials said.

Shrinking the tumor with birth control pills failed, so the zoo called in obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Susan Murrey from Adventist Hinsdale, who in early April 2006 performed a hydrothermal ablation to coagulate the inner lining of the uterus, zoo officials said.

But that solved the problem for only a few months, and a permanent solution was required. For that, the staff again went to Dr. Murrey, who organized a uterine fibroid embolization. This procedure involves the use of a catheter to cut off the blood supply to the tumor, zoo officials said. X-Rays and imaging techniques are used to guide the microtools so minimal incisions are necessary.

On Tuesday, the radiologists Drs. Steven Smith, Luke Sewall and Francis Facchini performed the procedure at Adventist Hinsdale, the first time a uterine fibroid embolization had ever been performed on a non-human primate, zoo officials said.

The procedure allowed surgeons to shrink the fibroid without removing the uterus and ovaries as in a hysterectomy.

Beta has been the subject of medical innovation twice before. In 1981, she was the first gorilla to give birth via artificial insemination at the Memphis Zoo. In 1986, she was the first gorilla to undergo bilateral hip replacement surgery, and still the only gorilla ever to have had that procedure.

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University Experiments On Monkey Brains Shut Down By PETA

monkey brainsFrom 1998 to 2006, Dr. David Waitzman of the University of Connecticut Health Center went from receiving a $1.7 million grant from the National Eye Institute, a division of the National Institute of Health, to shutting down his lab at the urging of the University of Connecticut.

Waitzman, whose research concentrated on how the brain stem controls eye movement, ran into trouble in 2004 when then-UConn student Justin Goodman, founder of the UConn Animal Rights Collective and research associate with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), learned of his research, which included allegedly unauthorized experimentation involving monkeys.

"We did some background reconnaissance and were able to construct a good illustration of what was going on," Goodman said.

What was going on in the laboratories was, in fact, in full violation of National Institute of Health (NIH) standards. Monkeys would spend months being acclimatized, then, in various experiments, had parts of their skulls cut off and data collection chambers placed on their brains and small wire coils placed in their eyes. One subject in particular, a monkey named Cornelius, began displaying adverse affects to this treatment.

An official complaint from PETA, written by Goodman, to the National Eye Institute contains details of a treatment log kept by doctors at the laboratory. It reads in part that after experimentation, Cornelius was "returned to cage. Seemed to have loss of stability. Shaking in chair. Seizure developed." One month later, the animal died of cardiac arrest in the experiment chair.

Following this unexpected death, further investigations into the laboratory occurred. According to the PETA statement, "Waitzman's nonhuman primate laboratory in the Farmington facility was inspected by the USDA five times during the period from November 2005 to January 2007, resulting in 21 citations for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA)."

This included "failure to employ personnel who were appropriately qualified and trained and authorized by the IACUC to handle nonhuman primates" and "failure to handle nonhuman primates in a way that does not cause stress, trauma, and/or unnecessary discomfort."

Following these inspections, PETA has made three requests of the NIH: that the UConn Health Center return the grant money given, that the NIH consider revoking the Health Center's permission to conduct animal experiments, and to further investigate what Goodman calls the "culture of noncompliance," or the continuous violations by dozens of schools and organizations.

In a similar case of animal research involving the University of Washington, the NIH responded to complaints by declaring, "consistent with applicable NIH grants policy, the National Eye Institute has determined that grant funds may not be used to support unauthorized research activities."

For this reason, taking the same course of action at UConn "seemed like a promising avenue," Goodman said. "We're just asking them to do their job. NIH is the steward of public funds. This is taxpayers' money and it's being squandered, used for cruel, illicit experiments."

Story here.

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Testimony Begins In Boston Zoo Escaped Gorilla Case

little joeLittle Joe's thick fingers curled around the leg of the terrified toddler in Courtney Roberson's arms, and then the 300-pound gorilla pushed open the door and grabbed Roberson.

"He picked me up by my shirt, lifted me off the ground, and tossed me," Roberson said yesterday. "When Joe threw me, I dropped Nia. . . . Nia was screaming the whole time."

Nia S. Scott was 2 years and 9 months old on Sept. 28, 2003, when a late afternoon visit to Franklin Park Zoo ended with a harrowing confrontation with a Western lowland gorilla who had outwitted his keepers and escaped from his exhibition space.

"I couldn't believe that I was just attacked by a gorilla at the zoo," Roberson said in Suffolk Superior Court, where Nia's mother is suing Zoo New England and five top officials. "I couldn't believe it happened."

Roberson, who took Nia and three other children to the zoo that day, was the first witness in the civil lawsuit filed by Nia's mother, Terrasita Duarte-Scott, which contends that Nia suffered physical injuries as a result of the encounter and that both mother and daughter have suffered persistent psychological damage.

Roberson said that after attacking her, Little Joe suddenly shifted his attention to the child. As Roberson ran to get help, she looked back.

"The last time I seen Nia, I saw her in front of the Tropical Forest, being attacked by Joe," said Roberson, who was 18 at the time and has her own lawsuit pending. "I remember crying, 'I can't help her!' "

In his opening statement, Scott's attorney, Donald Gibson, accused zookeepers of failing to build a safe exhibition space. He said the gorilla, then 10 years old, had nearly escaped in 1999 and had also escaped the exhibition area, but not the building, in August 2003.

Gibson said that the once-outgoing girl now has nightmares and has become wary. The relationship between mother and daughter, he said, was altered because of her encounter with the ape.

In their opening statements, lawyers for the zoo and its officials acknowledged that Nia Scott had been injured, but urged jurors to closely question the extent of those injuries.

Kevin Kenneally, representing Zoo New England, suggested that the child started and stopped therapy at Gibson's urging.

He also suggested there may be no connection between the incident at the zoo and any emotional difficulties the child may have.

"There are other things in life that can affect people, especially young children," Kenneally said.

After the attack, the gorilla exhibit was shut down, and the zoo spent three years and $2.3 million building a new exhibition space for the apes, which has since reopened.

Roberson, who is close with Nia Scott's mother, said she took Nia and three girls, ranging in ages from 6 to 9, to the zoo, where she worked in guest services.

Roberson said that they entered the tropical forest exhibit area around 5:45 p.m. She said that she understood it was zoo policy to remove the apes from public display around 5:30 p.m. and that she did not expect any apes when they entered.

But Little Joe and two other apes were out. After they had been in the building for a few minutes, Roberson said, she heard a boom and one of the girls ran to her, shouting that Little Joe had escaped.

Roberson said they ran down a long hallway toward the exterior door, and at one point she looked back and saw that Little Joe was pursuing.

When she got to the doors, Roberson said, she realized that Nia had fallen behind and ran back to pick up the child. She had Nia in her arms and had made it outside, when the gorilla slammed into the exterior doors and grabbed Nia's leg.

After Little Joe threw her to the ground, Roberson said, she saw the gorilla standing over the girl on all fours, with his right arm swinging toward her.

She said the gorilla swung his arm at Nia up to eight times, but acknowledged that she never saw if Little Joe struck the child.

The trial resumes today with John Linehan, chief executive officer, on the stand. The girl is expected to testify later in the trial.

Story here.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Baboon Adopts Chicken At Lithuanian Zoo

A lonely baboon in a private Lithuanian zoo has adopted a chicken he saved from certain death last month and the two have formed a fast friendship, the zoo's director said on Friday.

The chicken was intended as food for other animals in the zoo, but escaped and was sheltered by Mitis, a six-year-old Hamadryas Baboon, Edvardas Legeckas, who runs the zoo near the port city Klaipeda in western Lithuania, told Reuters.

Mitis has been fed chicken meat before, but this time he fell in love with his food, Legeckas said.

"He plays with the chicken, cleans its feathers, sleeps with it, and takes care as if it was his own baby child," the zoo director said.

"But I am not sure how long this affair would last, because baboon may finally realize this is food."

Baboons, with their distinctive long dog-like muzzles and heavy powerful jaws, are omnivorous, but usually prefer fruit. In the wild, they live in close-knit social groups.

"Obviously this baboon needed someone to communicate with," the director said.

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Monkey Invades New Delhi Airport

A monkey stalled operations at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport for a few hours, delaying passengers and senior officials, media reports and officials said Monday. The trouble began after the simian was spotted by passengers at the airport's security hold area on Sunday evening, the Times of India reported quoting official sources.

Soon after, authorities closed two gates, generally used for movement of important people or VIPs and summoned a team from an NGO called Wildlife SOS to catch the unusual visitor.

The report said the monkey had triggered panic amongst passengers and the entry through the gates was denied to VIPs, officials and passengers for a couple of hours.

"The monkey had apparently been frequenting the airport for a few weeks now and has been found staying between the false and actual ceilings. But we have not been able to capture him since there is a huge tangle of wires there," Karthik Satyanarayan from the Wildlife SOS told the paper.

Baiju Raj, another official at the Wildlife SOS said the operations were restored after a few hours but the monkey was still not captured as the NGO was awaiting permission from the authorities.

It was not the first time that passengers at the New Delhi airport were troubled by unwelcome intruders.

In March, a rat had delayed an international flight by more than three hours. In November last year, a rabid dog entered the airport and bit four people before it was captured in a three-hour chase.

The airport is currently undergoing a 1.94-billion-dollar revamp to provide better facilities and double its capacity to 37 million passengers by 2010.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Monkeys Trade Hugs for Baby Love

monkey hugsA big, warm hug works wonders, even in the monkey world. Female spider monkeys without infants, it seems, will hug mother monkeys in exchange for permission to kiss, sniff and touch their babies.

The discovery, which will be outlined in an upcoming issue of Animal Behavior, not only shows how much primates, especially females, value infants, but it also reveals that an embrace conveys good intentions and provides comfort in primate species other than humans.

"An embrace is defined as one monkey approaching another monkey and wrapping their arms around them, in very much the same way as humans do, with one arm wrapped around the neck and the other around the waist," lead author Kathy Slater told Discovery News.

Slater, a researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chester, added that the embrace is often accompanied by a "kiss on the cheek" and a "pectoral sniff," when one monkey moves its head next to the other monkey's chest scent glands to get a whiff.

She said both males and females tend to hug when they haven't seen each other for a while. Males will also sometimes hug each other in front of females "to reduce tension and prevent aggression" in a situation that can foster competition.

But Slater's observation that females without young often embrace new mothers is new. She and her team observed hugs received by 15 such mothers in two communities at Otoch Ma'ax Yetel Kooh reserve in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

In most instances, a recently embraced mother would grant the hugger permission to handle her infant, which the mother carries for the first year of its life. The mother does not release the baby, but grants the hugger permission to sit in close proximity and handle the infant.

"Embraces in spider monkeys appear to be a method of reassuring the recipient of benign intent and reducing tension," Slater explained. "Embracing is a potentially risky behavior, as it exposes vulnerable parts of the body, such as the shoulders, face and neck, and is therefore an honest signal to the mother that the (hugger) does not intend to harm her or her baby."

Mothers approached by females who did not offer a hug protectively snubbed the curious females by either turning their bodies to create a physical barrier, or by moving — baby in tow — away from the approaching individual.

Louise Barrett, a researcher in the Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioral Ecology Research Group at the University of Liverpool, previously found that female baboons engage in similar behavior, only they exchange grooming for baby handling.

Barrett told Discovery News that at first she wondered how anyone could make a similar finding about spider monkeys, which do not spend much time socially grooming.

"The fact that embraces function in the same way (as grooming) — and perhaps more effectively — is interesting," Barrett said.

Slater believes the "biological market," whereby individuals exchange either grooming or hugs for baby time, may illustrate the origins of human hugging.

She explained that spider monkeys live in the same type of societies as chimpanzees do. Since chimp societies are, in turn, similar to human societies, "it is therefore possible to make direct links between spider monkey social behavior and the evolution of human social behavior."

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Police Nab Two In Theft Of Baby Monkey From Zoo

Zachary Chase GuidrozThe 6-month-old was missing for four days when an anonymous call came in, letting officials know she'd been abducted and where she was being held.

The mother, more than likely distraught, had never said a word, but the alarm went out when the infant was nowhere to be found Sunday.

Still, it wouldn't be until Wednesday that officials at the Zoo of Acadiana received the tip that led police to a pair of thieves who had taken a baby marmoset from its cage.

Emily Elizabeth Trosclair"I'm extremely disappointed that someone would take this animal from the zoo," said George Oldenburg, owner of the Zoo of Acadiana. "We never dreamed anyone would take it. I'm very upset about this."

The tip lead law enforcement officials to the home of 20-year-old Zachary Chase Guidroz of Lafayette. There, police found Guidroz with Emily Elizabeth Trosclair, 18, of Opelousas.

And the monkey allegedly was there too, in their custody.

"The monkey was recovered," Oldenburg said. "It seems to be fine."

He said the monkey, which didn't even have a name at the time of its abduction, was more than likely stolen Sunday evening.

However, zookeepers couldn't be sure the monkey was taken. For all they knew, the monkey, which weighs less than an egg, could have been eaten by a snake or hiding around its habitat.

"They're very small," Oldenburg said, "and they're not cheap."

The exhibit that housed the animal was roped off where patrons couldn't get close to the cage. Oldenburg can't figure out how someone could have stolen the monkey, and that disturbs him deeply, he said.

"It was still being nursed, and it was critical that we get it back fast," he said. "If it wasn't given the right diet, the monkey could've died. And there is a stress factor from it being removed from its parent and from its habitat to a new environment to consider, too."

Police Chief Brannon Decou said the pair confessed to stealing the monkey after their arrest. Decou said they didn't say why they stole it. The two were not previous employees of the zoo.

Trosclair and Guidroz have been charged with theft by Broussard police.

"It's like any other theft," Decou said. "It's just like stealing a TV or stealing a stereo."

The monkey has been reunited with its mother and is back safely in the Zoo of Acadiana.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Monkey Bonds With Pigeon At Rescue Shelter

monkey pigeon
They're an odd couple in every sense but a monkey and a pigeon have become inseparable at an animal sanctuary in China.

The 12-week-old macaque - who was abandoned by his mother - was close to death when it was rescued on Neilingding Island, in Goangdong Province.

After being taken to an animal hospital his health began to improve but he seemed spiritless - until he developed a friendship with a white pigeon.

The blossoming relationship helped to revive the macaque who has developed a new lease of life, say staff at the sanctuary.

Now the unlikely duo are never far from each other's side, but they aren't the only ones to strike up an unusual friendship.

Earlier this year a pig adopted a tiger cub and raised him along with her piglets because his mother couldn't feed him.

And in 2005 a baby dear named Mi-Lu befriended lurcher Geoffrey at the Knowsley Animal Park in Merseyside after she was rejected by her mother.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Okie's Gorilla Fingerpaintings For Sale On Ebay To Benefit Zoo

gorilla paintingLittle Joe and Okie, two of Franklin Park Zoo’s western lowland gorillas, are avid finger painters and in an online world where almost anything can be found for sale, Okie's paintings are now up for bid on eBay.

Okie's finger painting is a part of the zoo’s enrichment program designed to keep the gorillas intellectually stimulated.

Zookeeper Brandi Moores told The Boston Phoenix that she began encouraging the gorillas' art three years ago.

She sits on one side of the cage, the gorillas squat on the other.

Moores then squirts the paint onto the paper canvas and slides it under the gate. She choses the color. Okie smears the paint with his knuckles and sometimes adds his fingerprints to the art.

“I don’t know if Okie is painting thinking, ‘This is gorgeous,’ ” Moores told the paper. "Sometimes I just put the paint in the den with him and then I’ll leave him alone and he can do what he wants. I think it’s much more natural. He does just smear it around. He’ll smear it on the walls. He’s just kind of a messy gorilla.”

When he is done, Moores rewards the gorilla with slices of fruit.

Throughout the summer, Okie and Little Joe's work has been on display at the zoo, in the first public showing of their work in an exhibition entitled "Okie & Little Joe: A Retrospective."

Earlier this summer, one of Okie's paintings sold for $10,000 at a fundraising event at the zoo.

The bidding on eBay starts at $1,500 for each of the paintings. The auction ends late Saturday afternoon with proceeds benefiting the zoo.

View all paintings here.

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Nigerian Man Charged For Telling Pet Monkey To Bite Boy

A 32-year-old Nigerian man appeared in court Tuesday on a charge of instructing his monkey to bite a teenager, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported.

Prosecutor lawyer Thaddeus Joseph told an Abuja magistrate court that Sunday Adeyemi on September 2 instructed his monkey to bite 11-year-old Samson Sule.

Adeyemi denied the charge.

"The children always play with my monkey. I cannot instruct it to bite them. It is not possible," Adeyemi told the court.

Presiding magistrate Folashade Oyekan granted Adeyemi bail and adjourned further hearing to September 17.

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Gorillas Classified As Critically Endangered

endangered gorillaThe World Conservation Union (IUCN) has released its newly revised Red List of Threatened Species. One notable change is the elevation of western gorillas to the highest threat status, Critically Endangered. The rise in status is attributed to uncontrolled poaching and massive outbreaks of the lethal Ebola virus, which has killed about one third of gorillas in protected areas over the last fifteen years.
The rise in status is noteworthy because western gorillas have yet to dwindle to the tiny remnant population size typical of Critically Endangered species. Rather, the listing is based on the dizzying rate of decline in a species that was until recently widespread and common. The combined effects of poaching and Ebola have caused western gorilla populations to drop by at least 60% in the last twenty years.

"Critically Endangeredstatus is extremely encouraging", said Peter D. Walsh of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, one of the experts who worked on the listing. "For once we are paying attention before it is too late. A relatively modest investment in anti-poaching and Ebola control could ensure the future of one of our closest relatives."

Experts were able to estimate the population decline due to Ebola because outbreaks cause a distinctive "all or none" pattern in which large zones of 95% mortality transition abruptly into zones of normal gorilla density. Estimating impact was then a matter of using sleeping nest surveys to estimate what proportion of habitat lay in the dead zones.

Poaching and Ebola represent a devastating one-two punch because poaching is concentrated in accessible areas while Ebola impact has been in remote areas, often inside national parks and other protected areas. For instance, Ebola outbreaks killed gorillas viewed by tourists at Lossi Sanctuary and Odzala National Park in Northern Republic of Congo while animals in the mountain gorilla tourism program at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda were recently killed by poachers.

Law enforcement, particularly anti-poaching patrols, has been effective in controlling poaching in the past while several different experimental vaccines might be used against Ebola. "Unfortunately, funding for law enforcement has dwindled in recent years in favor of more politically correct programs such as ecotourism and nobody wants to pay for an Ebola vaccination program" said Walsh. "Unless we get more serious about law enforcement and Ebola control right now, there won’t be many gorillas left for tourists to see."

A vaccination program would use one of the five experimental vaccines that have successfully protected laboratory monkeys against Ebola. What is necessary to move one of these vaccines from the lab to the field are safety and efficacy tests on captive animals and a method of vaccine delivery in the wild. Walsh and Colleagues at Max Planck, the Leipzig Zoo, and Impfstoffwerk Dessau-Tornau, a private vaccine manufacturer, have already started oral bait trials on captive gorillas. They are currently looking for funding to carry out vaccine safety trials on captive animals, as well as oral baiting and darting trials in the wild.

Gorillas are currently divided into two species, the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei). Reliable abundance estimates are not available for the two species, but eastern gorillas probably number in the mid thousands while western gorillas number in the tens of thousands. Habitat loss is the greatest threat to eastern gorillas but a relatively minor threat to western gorillas. Eastern gorillas are also threatened by illegal hunting but to a lesser extent than western gorillas. Only western gorillas and common chimpanzees are currently threatened by Ebola.

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