Monday, October 29, 2007

Monkey Turns Nanny

monkey nannyPresenting a unique bond of love between simians and human beings, a monkey in Orissa's Dhenkanal area has adorned a baby-sitter's role by taking care of an infant human baby when its mother is busy doing household chores.

Every morning, the monkey arrives at the 21-day-old baby's house and spends rest of the day taking care of the baby boy. At times, the monkey goes asleep with the infant in the house.

"Initially, I was scared by this unusual affection shown by the monkey towards my baby. But today, the monkey takes care of him the whole day when I am busy with my household work. Sitting next to my baby son, the monkey looks after him as a mother and never harms," said Kamalini Khuntia, the mother.

Rohit Khuntia and Kamalini Khuntia, the parents of the infant were scared and reluctant to allow a monkey to come near the child. They even tried to shoo the simian away. But it did not stop the monkey from visiting their house and play with the baby.

Both of the parents have now given up their fear and now treat the monkey as family.

The unique incident showcasing an astonishing relation of love and care between a monkey and human child has become the talk of the town.

"Look this is an animal but showers love and affection like a real mother to a human baby. For the past 15-16 days, it is taking care of the baby as a mother would do," said, Shantanu Das, a neighbour

Khuntia's home has today become a favourite tourist spot of sorts, as several curious people keep visiting to witness the unique bond. Who knows the sight may influence the general mindset that usually perceives the presence of monkeys to be a menace for the human world?

Story here.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Report Shows One Third of Primate Species Risk Extinction

primates endangeredMankind's closest living relatives -- the world's apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates -- are under unprecedented threat from destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bushmeat hunting, with 29 percent of all species in danger of going extinct, according to a new report.

Titled "Primates in Peril: The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates--2006--2008,*" the report compiled by 60 experts from 21 countries warns that failure to respond to the mounting threats now exacerbated by climate change will bring the first primate extinctions in more than a century. Overall, 114 of the world's 394 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List.

Hunters kill primates for food and to sell the meat; traders capture them for live sale; and loggers, farmers, and land developers destroy their habitat. One species, Miss Waldron's red colobus of Ivory Coast and Ghana, already is feared extinct, while the golden-headed langur of Vietnam and China's Hainan gibbon number only in the dozens. The Horton Plains slender loris of Sri Lanka has been sighted just four times since 1937.

"You could fit all the surviving members of these 25 species in a single football stadium; that's how few of them remain on Earth today," said CI President Russell A. Mittermeier, who also chairs the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group. "The situation is worst in Asia, where tropical forest destruction and the hunting and trading of monkeys puts many species at terrible risk. Even newly discovered species are severely threatened from loss of habitat and could soon disappear."

As "Flagship Species" and our closest living relatives, nonhuman primates are important to the health of their surrounding ecosystems. Through the dispersal of seeds and other interactions with their environments, primates help support a wide range of plant and animal life that makes up the Earth's forests.

The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates list, compiled at the 21st Congress of the International Primatological Society in Entebbe, Uganda, follows similar assessments in 2000, 2002 and 2004. Eight of the primates on the latest list, including the Sumatran orangutan of Indonesia and the Cross River gorilla of Cameroon and Nigeria, are "four-time losers" that also appeared on the previous three lists. Six other species are on the list for the first time, including a recently discovered Indonesian tarsier that has yet to be formally named.

Madagascar and Vietnam each have four primates on the new list, while Indonesia has three, followed by Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Colombia with two each, and one each from China, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador. Some primates on the list are found in more than one country.

By region, the list includes 11 species from Asia, seven from Africa, four from Madagascar, and three from South America, showing that non-human primates are threatened wherever they live.

All 25 primates on the 2006--2008 list are found in the world's biodiversity hotspots--34 high priority regions identified by Conservation International that cover just 2.3 percent of the Earth's land surface but harbor well over 50 percent of all terrestrial plant and animal diversity. Eight of the hotspots are considered the highest priorities for the survival of the most endangered primates: Indo-Burma, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands, Sundaland, Eastern Afromontane, Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, Guinean Forests of West Africa, the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, and Western Ghats-Sri Lanka.

Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, logging, and the collection of fuel wood continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates, according to the report. Tropical deforestation also emits 20 percent of total greenhouse gases that cause climate change, which is more than all the world's cars, trucks, trains and airplanes combined. In addition, climate change is altering the habitats of many species, leaving those with small ranges even more vulnerable to extinction.

"By protecting the world's remaining tropical forests, we save primates and other endangered species while preventing more carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere to warm the climate," Mittermeier noted.

Hunting for subsistence and commercial purposes is another major threat to primates, especially in Africa and Asia. Live capture for the pet trade also poses a serious threat, particularly to Asian species.

The 2006-2008 list focuses on the severity of the overall threat rather than mere numbers. Some on the list, such as the Sumatran orangutan, still number in the low thousands but are disappearing at a faster rate than other primates. Others were discovered only in recent years, and their low numbers and limited range make them particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction and other threats.

The World's 25 Most Endangered Primates, and the countries where they are found:

1. Greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus), Madagascar
2. White-collared lemur (Eulemur albocollaris), Madagascar
3. Sahamalaza Peninsula sportive lemur (Lepilemur sahamalazensis), Madagascar
4. Silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus), Madagascar
5. Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), Nigeria, Cameroon
6. Roloway monkey (Cercopithecus diana roloway), Ivory Coast, Ghana
7. Rondo dwarf galago (Galagoides rondoensis), Tanzania
8. Tana River red colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus), Kenya
9. Miss Waldron's red colobus (Procolobus badius), Ivory Coast, Ghana
10. Kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji), Tanzania
11. Pennant's red colobus (Procolobus pennantii pennantii), Equatorial Guinea (Island of Bioko)
12. Variegated spider monkey (Ateles hybridus), Colombia, Venezuela
13. Brown-headed spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps), Colombia, Ecuador
14. Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda), Peru
15. Western Hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar
16. Horton Plains slender loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides), Sri Lanka
17. Western purple-faced langur (Semnopithecus vetulus nestor), Sri Lanka
18. Pig-tailed langur (Simias concolor), Indonesia (Mentawai Islands)
19. Siau Island tarsier (Tarsius sp.), Indonesia
20. Delacour's langur (Trachypithecus delacouri), Vietnam
21. Golden-headed langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus poliocephalus), Vietnam
22. Grey-shanked douc (Pygathrix cinerea), Vietnam
23. Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus), Vietnam
24. Hainan black-crested gibbon (Nomascus hainanus), China (Hainan Island)
25. Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), Indonesia (Sumatra)

This report was prepared by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN's Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS), in collaboration with Conservation International (CI).

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Humans And Monkeys Share Machiavellian Intelligence

monkey intelligenceWhen it comes to their social behavior, people sometimes act like monkeys, or more specifically, like rhesus macaques, a type of monkey that shares with humans strong tendencies for nepotism and political maneuvering, according to research by Dario Maestripieri, an expert on primate behavior and an Associate Professor in Comparative Human Development and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago.

"After humans, rhesus macaques are one of the most successful primate species on our planet; our Machiavellian intelligence may be one of the reasons for our success" wrote Maestripieri.*

Maestripieri has been studying monkeys for more than 20 years and has written extensively on their behavior. He has studied them in Europe, at a research center in Atlanta, and on an island in Puerto Rico, where researchers established a rhesus macaque colony for scientific and breeding purposes.

Rhesus macaques live in complex societies with strong dominance hierarchies and long-lasting social bonds between female relatives. Individuals constantly compete for high social status and the power that comes with it using ruthless aggression, nepotism, and complex political alliances. Sex, too, can be used for political purposes. The tactics used by monkeys to increase or maintain their power are not much different from those Machiavelli suggested political leaders use during the Renaissance.

Alpha males, who rule the 50 or so macaques in the troop, use threats and violence to hold on to the safest sleeping places, the best food, and access to the females in the group with whom they want to have sex. Like human dictators intent on holding power, dominant monkeys use frequent and unpredictable aggression as an effective form of intimidation. Less powerful members of the rhesus macaque group are marginalized and forced to live on the edges of the group's area, where they are vulnerable to predator attacks. They must wait for the others to eat first and then have the leftovers; they have sex only when the dominant monkeys are not looking.

"In rhesus society, dominants always travel in business class and subordinates in economy, and if the flight is overbooked, it's the subordinates who get bumped off the plane," Maestripieri said. "Social status can make the difference between life and death in human societies too," he pointed out. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, for instance, the poorer members of the community accounted for most of the hurricane's death toll.

Male macaques form alliances with more powerful individuals, and take part in scapegoating on the lower end of the hierarchy, a Machiavellian strategy that a mid-ranking monkey can use when under attack from a higher-ranking one. Altruism is rare and, in most cases, only a form of nepotistic behavior. Mothers help their daughters achieve a status similar to their own and to maintain it throughout their lives. Females act in Machiavellian ways also when it comes to reproduction. They make sure they have lots of sex with the alpha male to increase the chances he will protect their newborn infant from other monkeys 6 months later.

"But while they have lots of sex with the alpha male and make him think he's going to be the father of their baby, the females also have sex with all the other males in the group behind the alpha male's back," Maestripieri said. They do so just in case the alpha male is sterile or he dies or loses his power before the baby is born.

Struggles for power within a group sometimes culminate in a revolution, in which all members of the most dominant family are suddenly attacked by entire families of subordinates. These revolutions result in drastic changes in the structure of power within rhesus societies, not unlike those occurring following human revolutions. There is one situation, however, in which all of the well-established social structure evaporates: when a group of rhesus macaques confronts another one and monkey warfare begins. Rhesus macaques dislike strangers and will viciously attack their own image in a mirror, thinking it's a stranger threatening them. When warfare begins, "Even a low-ranking rhesus loner becomes an instant patriot. Every drop of xenophobia in rhesus blood is transformed into fuel for battle," Maestripieri wrote.

"What rhesus macaques and humans may have in common is that many of their psychological and behavioral dispositions have been shaped by intense competition between individuals and groups during the evolutionary history of these species" Maestripieri said. Rhesus groups can function like armies, and this may explain why these monkeys have been so successful in the competition with other primates.

Pressure to find Machiavellian solutions to social problems may also have led to the evolution of larger human brains.

"Our Machiavellian intelligence is not something we can be proud of, but it may be the secret of our success. If it contributed to the evolution of our large brains and complex cognitive skills, it also contributed to the evolution of our ability to engage in noble spiritual and intellectual activities, including our love and compassion for other people", Maestripieri said.

*This is in the new book Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World.

Story here.

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Monkey Learns To Chaperone Pigs

A monkey tending a herd of pigs was a common sight in Kunigal town.

But, the owner Nanjappa is in a fix now, as the caretaker has now started attacking the piglets. It was about seven months ago when a male monkey dropped in at the farm of Nanjappa near the big tank in Kunigal town.

Impressed by its gentle manner, Nanjappa fed and groomed it for a few days. Gradually the monkey became part of the farmer’s family.

The monkey soon learnt the skills of tending the pigs. Nanjappa was glad as he could save on an extra hand to look after his herd.

The duty-conscious monkey would head out with the herd at 6 am daily and bring them back home by evening. He was sincere and efficient in the job. While taking the pigs on the highway or crossing a street, the monkey would take care to steer the herd safely.

The pigs, Nanjappa says, used to respond to the monkey’s command. If a man or dog tried to trouble them, the monkey would glare at them. If the need arose, he would shoo them away to guard his precious herd.

There were instances of the monkey attacking such potential trouble-makers. Things were smooth for about six months.

But now the caretaker himself has started troubling the piglets and attacks them frequently. Nanjappa is in two minds as to whether to try to tame the monkey or release it into the forest.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chimpanzee Born At Wellington Zoo

chimp bornA chimpanzee was born at Wellington Zoo early on 22 October, Husbandry Manager, Suzette Nicholson announced today.

‘Our chimpanzee keeper Cassandra Butler came in to work on Monday morning and found that Sally had given birth at around 6am, a week early than expected. Both mother and baby appear to be doing well.’

‘Sally and the baby have been in their indoor house with the rest of the troop for the last couple of days, so they can all meet and get acquainted with the new arrival.’

‘The other chimps are interested in the baby, particularly Alexis our youngest chimp, but Sally is proving to be a protective mother. She will let them get near to the baby but she won’t let them touch it.’

‘We’re unsure of the baby’s sex at this stage, but we think it’s a girl. Our chimpanzees are part of an international breeding programme, and a baby girl would be important for the region. Sally has had boys in the past.’

‘We believe that the dad is Sam, our biggest male, but we will be doing DNA testing on the baby to make sure. This baby brings the number of chimpanzees in our troop to 13.’

‘The baby is tiny, as you’d expect of any baby that is a couple of days old. They are totally dependent on their mother for around the first four months of their lives. Infant chimpanzees tend to cling to mum for at least the first year,” said Suzette.

Chimpanzees are endangered and in the wild their population continues to fall. The main threats to chimps in the wild are destruction of their natural habitats due to logging and hunting of chimpanzees for bush meat.

Story here.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How To Survive A Monkey Attack

monkey attackThe deputy mayor of New Delhi, India, fell off his balcony and died Sunday after being attacked by monkeys, his family members say. The city has around 10,000 monkeys, some of which have taken to roaming through government buildings as they steal food and rip apart documents. What should you do if monkeys are picking on you?

It's like Mom said about muggers: Just give 'em what they want. When monkeys get aggressive, it's usually because they think you have something to eat. According to one study, about three-quarters of all the aggressive interactions between long-tailed macaques and tourists at Bali's Padangtegal Monkey Forest involved food. If you are holding a snack, throw it in their direction, and they'll stop bothering you. If you don't have any food, hold out your open palms to show you're not carrying a tasty treat or back away from the monkeys without showing fear. To diffuse the situation, don't make eye contact or smile with your teeth showing—in the nonhuman primate world, these are almost always signs of aggression.

Monkey attacks are extremely rare in the wild; the creatures tend to be scared of us and often scamper away when a person gets within 100 feet. As monkeys lose their habitats around the world, though, they've started to live in closer proximity to humans, and that causes conflict.

Aggressive city monkeys will give you lots of warnings before an actual fight breaks out. First, the animals will look at you in the eyes, open their mouths, and bare their teeth. Rhesus macaques, the aggressive monkeys that cause a lot of the trouble in Delhi, will then warn you with a grunt. Next, they might fake a lunge toward you; this often causes a victim to lose his balance. If you're still withholding food, they'll grab at your knees and legs, and put their mouths on you so that you can feel their teeth. Finally, if you still won't cooperate, they'll sink their canines into you. The study in Bali found that most macaque bites don't break the skin, but a wound could allow transmission of herpes B, which can be fatal to humans. Baboons, which sometimes attack humans in Africa, are much more dangerous: They're bigger and less predictable, and they're armed with 3-inch-long canines. Last year, a South African man's forearms were ripped to the bone, and doctors dug out a baboon tooth during surgery.

What if you can't or won't appease the monkeys with food? You can try to chase them off by shaking a stick at them, but they might get violent if cornered. If they don't budge, bop 'em on the head; visitors to temples in India sometimes carry a stick for just this reason. Primatologists will sometimes send a macaque warning signal called the open-mouth threat. Basically, form an "O" with your mouth, lean toward them with your body and head, and raise your eyebrows. Female victims might seek protection in a group of men, since monkeys are somewhat afraid of males. But whatever you do, don't freak out; those who scream, wave their arms, and run away are only going to make the macaques even more aggressive.

Despite all the monkey business, Delhi has refused to cull the macaques, which are sacred because of the Hindu reverence for Hanuman, the monkey god. Instead, the government has relocated some of the troublemakers and even brought in langurs, a mellower but larger monkey, to scare off the smaller macaques.

Story here.

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Female Gorilla Born At Woodland Zoo

gorilla bornThe Woodland Park Zoo is celebrating the birth of a female western lowland gorilla — the third offspring of its parents and the 12th successful birth of the endangered species at the zoo.

The gorilla was born about 3:30 a.m. Saturday. It is indoors off public exhibit while it remains under 24-hour observation.

The first 72 hours of a gorilla's life are the most critical, according to Dr. John Ochsenreiter, interim associate veterinarian of animal health.

The new gorilla, which does not yet have a name, seems to be well; her mother, Amanda, is showing "excellent maternal care," according to a news release.

The baby is particularly important because of its genetic diversity, according to the release. Its mother was born in the wild and its father, Vip, has only two other relatives outside of Woodland Park Zoo.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

New Delhi Deputy Mayor Dies From Monkey Attack

monkeys killThe deputy mayor of the Indian capital New Delhi has died after being attacked by wild monkeys at his home.

SS Bajwa, 52, suffered serious head injuries after falling from a terrace during the attack.

Mr Bajwa was rushed to hospital but died from his injuries a short time later.

The city has long struggled to contain the monkeys, which overrun government buildings and temples, scare passers-by and sometimes bite or snatch food from unsuspecting people.

Mr Bajwa, who was elected deputy mayor earlier this year, belonged to India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been criticised for not doing enough to rid the city of the animals.

The defence ministry, however, has attempted to solve the problem by training bands of langur monkeys to attack the smaller, rhesus macaques.

City authorities have also used monkey catchers but the issue persists.

Part of the problem is that culling is unacceptable to Hindus, who revere the monkeys as a living link to the deity Hanuman, a monkey god who symbolises strength.

Story here.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

PETA Accuses Colorado Lab Of Mistreating Test Animals

Rodents drowning in cages when their water bottles malfunctioned. Cats being prepped for back surgery without adequate anesthesia. A monkey with a displaced colon, waiting four hours in pain for a veterinarian to arrive.

That's what occurred at a University of Colorado research lab, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals charged in two complaints filed with the federal government on Tuesday and supported by a whistleblower's documents, photos and video footage.

The complaints allege numerous violations of the federal law and guidelines that Karl Mann said he witnessed between August 2005 and March 2007, including inadequate anesthesia, unnecessarily painful procedures and substandard basic care such as a lack of food and water.

University spokesman Steve Krizman said animals used for research and education at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center aren't mistreated.

"In order to get good research, you need to have well-cared-for animals," Krizman said. "We have a state-of-the-art facility. We have employees specially trained to care for the animals."

He said the university's standards are higher than what is required and complaints are investigated and corrections are made when necessary.

But Mann, who left the lab in March after five years on the staff, said he contacted PETA last fall after his complaints to supervisors didn't change anything. He said he used hidden cameras to photograph and videotape lab conditions.

"It really sort of surprised me that no one was willing to do anything about it within the lab," said Mann, 42, who previously worked at the Denver Zoo.

The complaints were filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act, and the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

USDA spokesman Jim Rogers said he hadn't seen Mann's allegations. He said the agency looks into all complaints from private citizens or groups.

"We certainly take them seriously," Rogers said.

NIH spokesman Joe Balintfy said the agency investigates all allegations but doesn't discuss specific complaints or ongoing investigations.

PETA's complaint alleges the university and an oversight committee violated federal law and NIH guidelines by giving inadequate veterinary care, failing to respond to Mann's complaints, failing to require procedures to minimize pain and distress and failing to ensure that workers were properly qualified and trained.

The allegations include that cats being prepped for back surgery didn't appear to be fully anesthetized; that mice and rats were kept in crowded and sometimes dirty cages; that some rodents drowned when their cages were flooded with malfunctioning water bottles; and that in August 2005, a veterinarian did not arrive at the lab until four hours after Mann reported a bonnet macaque monkey had colon prolapse, or displacement. The veterinarian took another hour to euthanize the monkey, the complaint alleges.

Kathy Guillermo, PETA's research director, acknowledged that her organization opposes research on animals. She said even if people believe the research is worthwhile, the way it's being done raises questions about its effectiveness.

"There are laws and guidelines in place to protect these beings who have essentially no rights other than those written in the law," Guillermo said.

Story here.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In Monkeys, Brain Cell Growth Slows Long Before Old Age

Brain cell growth starts to decline long before old age hits in some monkeys, a new study finds, though it doesn’t come to a halt.

Researchers examined the neural cell growth of marmosets, a type of primate found in Central and South America, and found that the rate at which new neural cells form in the hippocampus region starts to decline soon after they reach adulthood. The hippocampus is the region of the brain associated with learning and memory.

The finding is of particular interest because marmosets are a distant relative of humans and other apes and could lend insight into how the human brain changes as we age.

"Past theories have suggested that complex brains, like those in monkeys and humans, undergo no changes in brain structure once adulthood is reached," said study leader Elizabeth Gould of Princeton University. "These new findings, however, offer further evidence that the primate brain actually shows a remarkable amount of structural reorganization over time."

The findings, detailed in the Oct. 15 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, aren't all bad news, Gould says, because though it slows, brain cell growth, known as neurogenesis, continues well into old age.

Similar observations in rodents lead researchers to hope that cell growth in the elderly can be stimulated, as it can be in rodents—rats who are allowed to socialize and exercise show signs of encouraged neural growth.

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Monkey Bit Man Charged With Theft And Deer Bludgening At Therapy Park

A monkey with a missing molar bit one of three men facing charges of stealing animals from Razzett tal-Hbiberija, in Marsascala, a magistrate heard yesterday.

Police Inspector Christopher Pullicino explained how a court expert had been appointed to compare the monkey's dental pattern with a bite mark found on the back of one of the men.

The officer was making submissions on bail during the arraignment of Kevin Portelli, 30, of Zabbar, Louis Ronayne, 24, of Kirkop, and his 20-year-old brother Salvino, of Marsascala who pleaded not guilty to stealing the animals, animal cruelty and causing damage at Razzett tal-Hbiberija on September 30.

Louis and Salvino Ronayne were also charged with breaching the conditions of a previous release and Louis Ronayne was charged with relapsing.

After the charges were read out to the three men, who were arraigned in the evening, the defence lawyers made a request for bail. However, Inspector Pullicino, prosecuting, objected saying there was the risk the accused would approach the witnesses for the prosecution.

He noted that among the witnesses was an expert who had been assigned to compare the dental pattern of a monkey - that had not been stolen - to a bite mark found on Mr Portelli's back.

Although some stolen animals had been returned, this was a crime that had been committed against society because the animals had been stolen from people with disabilities, the officer said,

After hearing submissions, Magistrate Miriam Hayman ordered that the three men be detained in custody at this stage until the prosecution's main witnesses were heard.

Razzett tal-Hbiberija has reported that three barn owls, two golden pheasants, four mountain goats, a young mountain goat, one Amazon parrot, a rabbit and a monkey used for therapy with children with disabilities have been stolen. An adult deer was found bludgeoned to death.

Lawyers José Herrera, Veronique Dalli, Chris Cardona, Malcolm Mifsud and Cedric Mifsud were defence counsel.

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Chimps Exaggerate Calls For Help

chimp callsChimpanzees under attack exaggerate their screams to get help from higher ranking group members, researchers from Fife have discovered.

The study found primates produce high-pitched and prolonged screams when they were the victims of severe aggression such as beating.

Their cries were exaggerated if there was another higher-ranking chimp in the area who could challenge the aggressor.

St Andrews University experts spent nine months in Budongo Forest, Uganda.

They recorded the apes' screams during attacks by chimps and carried out a computerised analysis of the acoustics.

Dr Katie Slocombe from the university's School of Psychology, who led the study, said: "We conclude victims use screams flexibly to recruit help from others and have a complex understanding of third party relations.

"They know exactly who can challenge who, and this knowledge of social relationships influences their vocal production.

"If no-one is there to help them then the screams are normal but if someone is about then they make it sound even worse than it is.

"This shows there is more flexibility in their vocal communication than previously thought."

Dr Slocombe said they were still researching the underlying reasons for the exaggerated screams.

"It could be that they are wanting to falsely deceive the higher ranking chimpanzee into thinking it is really bad," she said.

Dr Slocombe said that while direct parallels could not be drawn between the actions of the chimps and human behaviour, they displayed similar characteristics.

She said children often did not cry when they hurt themselves while on their own, but started crying if someone else was there.

The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

It is part of a wider study into the behaviour of chimpanzees.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Ireland Introduces First Ever Ban Of Wild Animals In Traveling Circuses

A landmark decision by Fingal County Council in Dublin has resulted in the first ever ban of performing 'wild' animals in circuses in Ireland. The ban, announced after a unanimous vote by Council Members on 8th October, follows years of campaigning by Circus Watch Ireland and the Alliance for Animal Rights (AFAR), along with other campaign groups and prohibits wild animal acts from public lands in the council area.

The decision instigated by Socialist Party’s Cllr Clare Daly. According to media sources, Spokesperson for Circus Watch Ireland Nuala Donlon congratulated the Fingal councillors for passing the motion and called on county and city councils throughout the republic to follow their example and impose similar bans.

“This is an extremely important first step towards ending the Victorian practice of keeping wild animals in travelling shows, and it reflects the growing opposition in this country to the cruelty to animals which is inherent in all animal circuses”, Ms. Donlon said.

Animals in circuses live a life of restriction, cages, chains, physical abuse and neglect, and constant transportation. In the summer of 2006 the Captive Animals' Protection Society investigated animal circuses across Ireland to expose how the animals are treated and housed. A vet experienced in the behaviour and welfare of wild animals in captivity accompanied investigators on some of the visits, and investigators found that many animals lived their lives confined to pens and cages, or chained by the legs; the circuses moved on a regular basis (sometimes twice a week); some animals even faced gruelling journeys of up to 1,000 miles from across Europe to appear in Irish circuses.

Investigations carried out by other animal rights organisations also reveal that animals are routinely beaten and intimidated to make them perform, left without food or water, and often are not given proper medical care. Also, performing animals often become a danger to the public.

According to data records kept by AFAR, there have been 8 people injured by circus animals in Ireland and two people killed.

"We are looking on this as the beginning of the end for circuses with animals in Ireland. This is the first council to get this motion passed unanimously (despite the issue being raised in other areas in the past). Hundreds of emails were sent to Fingal councillors from animal rights activists which helped enlighten them on the plight of animals confined in the beastwagons of travelling circuses," stated Bernie Wright, Press Officer for AFAR.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Denver Zoo Celebrates Birth Of Rare Mangabey Monkey

mangabey monkeyA rare, red-capped mangabey monkey has been born at the Denver Zoo, one of only 27 living in North American zoos.

The birth of the monkey, named Kanzu, on Sept. 30, brings Denver's mangabey troop to six. Zookeepers haven't yet determined the monkey's gender.

They named it Kanzu, a Swahili word for treasure.

The monkey's mother, Galina, gave birth to a female, named Kipaji, last spring.

Kanzu is the fourth red-capped mangabey born at the zoo. Only eight North American zoos count the species among their collections.

Red-capped mangabeys are native to a very small region near the west coast of sub-Saharan Africa.

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Scientists Spot Eyes' Motion Sensors In Primates

motion sensors eyeU.S. scientists say they've identified a type of retinal nerve cell that helps humans, monkeys and apes see motion.

The discovery of this "upsilon cell" may help improve understanding of vision in humans and other primates. The finding, by high-energy physicists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and neuroscientists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., was published in the Oct. 10 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

There are only a small number of upsilon cells, which makes them difficult to find when using traditional techniques. The discovery was made using a new detection system -- with 512 electrodes on an area about the size of a pinhead -- inspired by the UCSC scientists' research looking for particles in high-energy-physics collisions.

"This has been a fantastic journey through high-energy physics, neurobiology, technology, and human health," study senior author Alan Litke, adjunct professor of physics at UCSC's Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics, said in a prepared statement.

Biologists have identified about 22 distinct types of primate retinal nerve cells but only know the functions of about a half dozen of them.

"People have looked at cell morphology, but that can't tell us in any detail how the cell responds to light," Litke said. "If we're interested in how the retina is processing visual information, we really want to focus a movie on it and see what it reacts to -- to find out if it's seeing color, responding to motion, or whatever it might be doing."

Litke and his colleagues projected simple movies through a microscope lens and onto a patch of retina. As the rod and cone cells picked up the images, they sent electrical signals to different kinds of retinal nerve cells. Further research revealed the presence and distribution of the upsilon cells and their likely role in detecting motion.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shabani The Gorilla Tightropes

shabani the gorilla on the ropeSick of just hanging around, Shabani the gorilla has taken to walking the tightrope, delighting hundreds of visitors at a Japanese zoo.

The 10-year-old Western Lowland gorilla is meant to hang on the rope but has started walking across it instead, flapping his arms to keep balance as onlookers cheer him on.

"The rope is meant for hanging on but he started walking on it shortly after he got here," said Hiroshi Kobayashi, head of Higashiyama Zoo in the central city of Nagoya.

"Gorillas climb trees in the wild but we have hardly seen them walking a tightrope," he said.

Shabani, who weighs 110 kilogrammes (220 pounds), arrived in Japan from Sydney's Taronga Zoo in June before joining Higashiyama Zoo to breed with the three females there.

He already appears close with Nene, who at 36 is more than three times his age.

"She might seen a bit old," Kobayashi said, "but it is still fully possible to have a baby."

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Rampaging Monkeys Injure 15 In Athani

Tension gripped the town owing to mayhem of two violent monkeys as 15 more persons fell victim to their attack here on Sunday.

Out of the injured, 5 persons including a 4-year-old child are reported to be in serious condition. With the last attack the toll of the injured has raised to 25.

The reason behind the fiddling monkeys going amuck is still unknown. This time they targeted the areas of Jere Galli and Tahsildar office premises and attacked people, in the morning. This attack was more wilder than the earlier one.

The violent monkeys are not different than the common one’s which play around and do mischief. But never in the history did they attack anyone here unnecessarily, say the residents here.

The monkeys are growing wilder day after day and so are their attack getting severe.

They are being now hunted round-the-clock. It may be recalled here that on October 4, a monkey, which all of a sudden turned wild, attacked and bit about 10 persons around the bus stand premises. The injured were immediately provided medical aid.

Witnesses said that the monkey shouted and behaved madly during the attack.

It injured anyone whomever it could lay its hands on, they added.

Meanwhile, the Town Municipality along with the Forest Department had commenced the search operations for the wild monkeys, but been in vain till date.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Renegade Troops Endanger Gorillas Further, Try To Enlist Congo Rangers

congo gorillaRenegade troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are trying to forcibly enlist park rangers charged with protecting rare mountain gorillas, an animal welfare charity charged Sunday.

Forces loyal to cashiered general Laurent Nkunda, a powerful local leader, took control of the gorilla sector in Virunga national park as they fought with government troops, Wildlife Direct said.

"As a sign of escalating conflict however the rangers at Jomba (patrol post) were forced to flee Friday because the rebels were trying to force them to become combatants," it said in statement.

Wildlife Direct spokeswoman Samantha Newport told AFP by telephone that rebels had taken control of the whole gorilla sector, adding that "shelling and heavy gunfire was heard from the park ... in and around the gorilla sector".

"It is very serious and the situation for gorillas is now worse than it was when fighting started five weeks ago," Newport added.

"All Congolese mountain gorillas are now unprotected, unmonitored and untracked and therefore there is nothing we can do at the moment."

Newport added that rangers had removed all valuable tracking equipment from their Rumagambo headquarters, a few kilometres from the gorilla sector, in case the clashes reach the area.

There are 1,100 rangers protecting five national parks -- four of which are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- in eastern DRC. Some 150 rangers have been killed while on duty in a decade.

It is not easy to account for the fate of all these rangers during conflict, officials say.

The fresh dangers facing the rare gorillas and rangers sparked impassioned pleas from wildlife activists.

"This conflict has no place in the park, least of all in the habitat of these animals. We hope they will be unharmed," said Norbert Mushenzi, the head of parks for the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN).

Wildlife Direct chief Emmanuel de Merode urged the feuding sides to pull out of the park, warning: "They (gorillas) are not a target, but can so easily get caught in crossfire and shelling."

Lucy Fauveau of the London Zoological Society said security situation was "appalling" and made it "virtually impossible" to work with the gorillas.

When fighting flared up late August, Nkunda's men attacked ICCN gorilla patrol posts and looted weapons, ammunition and communication equipment.

A subsequent UN-mediated armistice unravelled, pushing fighting from the displaced countryside to the dense park.

Ten mountain gorillas have been killed and two have gone missing in Virunga national park since January. These slaughters, some blamed on Nkunda's men, have sparked outrage among conservationists.

After two were killed and eaten in January, the renegade troops pledged to halt the killings in a meeting with Virunga park officials mediated by the United Nations and Congolese army, but the deal fell apart.

Local and foreign militias as well as Congolese soldiers, poachers and illegal miners regularly cross this area of the park, one of Africa's largest.

The mountain gorillas are a major tourist attraction in the Virunga park, but poaching of wildlife there is endemic.

Only about 700 critically endangered mountain gorillas remain in the wild, all of them in the mountain forests of Rwanda, Uganda and the eastern DRC.

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Zoo Centennial Celebration Dedicates Garden To Bill The Chimp

bill the chimp statueTears came to Gretchen Ziegler’s eyes as she remembered a longtime friend at the Sequoia Park Zoo on Sunday.

“It’s amazing how sometimes that grief pops up,” said Ziegler, the zoo’s manager.

A memorial garden was dedicated to a past favorite zoo resident, Bill the chimp, on Sunday as part of the zoo’s centennial celebration.

Bill was a member of the zoo for 50 years and died at age 62 in June.

A memory book was available for visitors to sign their names with messages to Bill.

Wayne M. Anderson signed Bill’s memory book and smiled while remembering the animal he considered to be a part of his family.

“His gentle nature showed me where my humanity ended and where his humanity began,” Anderson said, donning a top hat and Bill the chimp T-shirt.

One entry said, “Bill you were my life. I miss you.”

As some area residents can attest, Bill was known to occasionally throw feces at visitors.

An entry recalled one such occasion: “Bill, I remember you smeared poop on my mom. Thanks.”

Ziegler said the feces incidents were, in fact, true.

“Oh yes, many, many times. It was his way of getting a reaction,” she said.

Cecily Olsen, 16, of Eureka, said she remembered Bill being artistic. She said her family acquired a picture he painted.

“Bill has been a part of my life since I was born,” Olsen said. “It surprised me how creative an animal could be.”

Tranquil music welcomed more than 100 people to the event that featured zoo keeper talks and free birthday cake from Ramone’s Bakery.

Jeff Lamoree, president of the Sequoia Park Zoo Foundation, said the zoo property was sold to the city of Eureka by the Glatt family in 1907.

The land was originally supposed to be a cemetery, but instead was established as a zoo.

Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass read the proclamation for the zoo’s centennial dedicating the memorial garden to Bill the chimp.

“I kept looking at Bill’s exhibit and the things people left for him. It’s just so touching,” she said. “It’s hard to not get teary-eyed; Bill was a part of our life.”

Lamoree said memorial bricks used in front of Bill’s garden were sold to community members for $50 each to help pay for the garden, which cost $15,000 to build.

The garden features a mural of trees, a statue of Bill with a fountain and a graphic history of Bill’s life and of the last 100 years at the zoo.

The zoo’s master plan was also featured in the exhibit and showed upcoming developments planned for the next 20 years.

Ziegler said it was amazing to see how many people came to the event and had connected with Bill.

“It’s true how very special Bill was,” Ziegler said. “We do miss him a lot.”

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Sibu The Orangutan Prefers His Mates Blonde And Tattooed, Zoo Keepers Frustrated

sibu orangtuanSibu the orang-utan has miffed his Dutch keepers by refusing to mate with females and showing sexual interest only in tattooed human blondes.

Apenheul Primate Park hoped Sibu would become its breeding male when he arrived two years ago, but orang-utans aren't his type.

"He chases them, or ignores them, but he doesn't do what he should do," said a spokeswoman for the park.

Instead, Sibu fancies his female keepers, especially blondes. That, the spokeswoman said, was common for orang-utans but Sibu has a fetish for tattoos, harking back to a heavily tattooed keeper who reared him.

"Orang-utans have special interests in special subjects. Sibu happens to like tattoos," she said.

The park hasn't given up on Sibu, 31. He showed an amorous interest in a female orang-utan while living in England and keepers hope he will find love when reunited with her in a new enclosure in Chester, England.

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Study Shows Fairness Is Only Human

A sense of fair play is uniquely human and is shaped not only by social forces but by heredity, according to a new study involving chimps and a separate study testing human identical twins.

In a food-sharing experiment published today in the journal Science, chimpanzees readily accepted stingy offers humans would tend to reject, suggesting that the human sense of fairness evolved to foster cooperation in a complex society made up of unrelated individuals and groups.

"In the context of everyday life, it is an advantage to not allow people to treat you unfairly. If you do, they will roll over you," said twin-study lead author Bjorn Wallace of the Stockholm School of Economics.

The chimp study, conducted by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, used an "ultimatum game," a classic test to explore fairness.

A typical game is played by two people. One is told to divide a small amount of money between them. If the second player accepts the offer, the money is shared. But if the second player rejects the proposal because it is not generous enough, the players get nothing.

In general, offers that give the second player less than 20% of the money are rejected, giving the first player a strong incentive to be fair.

Researchers modified the game for chimps, using raisins as a reward. Two chimps were separated behind a wire mesh through which they could view two trays holding a total of 10 raisins divided in different ways.

The first chimp offered one of the trays to the second chimp by using a rope to pull the tray almost within reach. If the second chimp accepted the offer, it pulled a rod to bring the tray close enough for both chimps to grab the raisins. If the second chimp refused to pull the tray, neither chimp got raisins.

The experiment was repeated with two trays containing varying combinations of raisins.

In contrast with humans in previous studies, the chimps tended to accept any offer and didn't get upset when they were offered a small amount of raisins or none at all.

Lead author Keith Jensen said the chimps behaved more rationally than people, because "it makes perfect economic sense to accept any nonzero offer and to offer the smallest amount possible while keeping the most for yourself."

Human sensitivity to fairness may have evolved along with empathy and other traits that allow individuals to cooperate, Jensen said. Groups of cooperative individuals would have competitive advantages over groups whose members didn't cooperate, he said. To get along, people need to have some degree of concern for others.

Jensen added, though, that the origins of fairness "are very speculative and debatable."

Ohio State University psychologist Sarah Boysen, who studies animal behavior, warned against over-interpreting the results. Chimps have a strong sense of justice, she said; it is just not the same as humans'.

"Deviations from their code of conduct are dealt with swiftly and succinctly, and then everybody moves on," said Boysen, who was not involved with the study. "They're more adaptive than we are -- just look at the Middle East."

In the second study, published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Sweden and the United States showed that identical twins were more likely to use the same strategy in the ultimatum game, suggesting that our sense of fairness is partly shaped by genetics.

Researchers proposed 11 ways to divide $15 and asked 71 pairs of fraternal twins and 258 pairs of identical twins to record which offers they would accept or reject. Offers ranged from the entire amount to nothing.

Because identical twins share all the same genes but fraternal twins do not, the study is thought to detect genetic influences in how participants played the game while controlling for some environmental factors, such as upbringing.

Researchers looked at each set of twins to see how closely their rejection decisions matched. They found there was no correlation among fraternal twins but a 42% likelihood that identical twins would make the same choices.

The results mean that many personal economic choices, such as whether to save money or spend it, may be substantially heritable, said Wallace, who conducted the research with colleagues from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet and MIT.

However, environmental factors were still important, and relationships not shared by the twins, such as friends and jobs, had a greater influence on decisions than genetics in the study, Wallace said.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Call For Inquiry After Escaped Chimp Shot Dead

chimp shot deadA call has been made for an independent inquiry into an escape by two chimps, one of which was shot dead, at Whipsnade Zoo.

Meanwhile, the zoo team made it clear that chimp Jonnie was killed "as a last resort" in the interests of public safety.

The 27-year-old chimp could not be recaptured and was shot dead after he and female chimp Coco, 44, went missing from an indoor den.

He was killed within the grounds, but Coco was safely recaptured just outside the zoo perimeter after scaling a fence on Bison Hill.

A call for an independent inquiry into the escape has now been made by the Captive Animals' Protection Society.

No staff members or visitors were injured during the drama, which happened while the zoo was open, just after 10am on Saturday, September 29.

The zoo has made it clear that it is carrying out its own full investigation into the incident.

Zoological director David Field said: "Initial attempts to recapture Jonnie were unsuccessful.

"He then moved out of reach from keepers and was therefore posing an immediate threat to the safety of the public and other staff."

And Mr Field went on: "The decision to shoot an animal is not taken lightly by the Zoological Society of London.

"In this situation, keepers were dealing with an unpredictable, strong and potentially dangerous animal.

"All options for the chimp's recapture were investigated. However, it was in the interests of public safety, and as a last resort, that he was shot in accordance with the zoo's procedure and policy for this kind of situation.

"Under the circumstances, this was judged to be the most appropriate and safest course of action."

Zoo visitors were told to remain in their cars or were taken to a place of safety during the incident.

The zoo was shut temporarily during the drama and remained closed until further safety checks were carried out.

Jonnie and Coco had been transferred to Whipsnade from London Zoo about a year ago.

The Captive Animals' Protection Society claimed that this was the latest in a series of animal escapes from UK zoos.

Campaigns manager Craig Redmond said: "In none of these cases has there been any independent inquiries into the escapes."

He added: "How many of these incidents have to happen before local authorities, which license zoos, take serious action to protect the public, zoo staff and animals?"

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Monkeys Treated With Accupuncture At Zoo

monkey accupunctureThe North Carolina Zoo is using some age-old medicine to help treat some of their elderly patients.

Veterinarians are using acupuncture to treat osteoarthritis in some aging Patas monkeys.

Dr. Christine Eckermann-Ross, an avian and exotic animal vet from Raleigh performed the treatment on the anesthetized monkey this morning. This is the first time the procedure has been used on any animal at the North Carolina Zoo.

Veterinarians at the zoo are hoping the treatment helps to alleviate the pain caused by the monkey's arthritic condition.

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USDA Fines Yerkes Animal Lab After Monkey Death

An animal research center was fined $15,000 for animal care problems linked to the death of a monkey, federal authorities said Monday.

Yerkes National Primate Research Center, part of Emory University, denied any willful wrongdoing, but agreed last week to pay the penalty, said U.S. agriculture department spokeswoman Jessica Milteer.

A Yerkes spokeswoman noted the research center reported the monkey's death, and said the center is committed to humane care for animals. "We deeply regret that an animal died," said the spokeswoman, Lisa Newbern.

Yerkes, one of eight federally funded national primate research centers, has about 3,400 primates at two locations. Its scientific contributions include new understanding of monkey and chimp behavior and development of an experimental AIDS vaccine.

The fine stems from findings from two inspections. The USDA reported unsanitary conditions during a January inspection of its 117-acre Lawrenceville field station. A July inspection confirmed inadequate training and veterinary care at its Atlanta campus, after the macaque died there.

The macaque — a short-tailed monkey — died from emphysema and from an absence of gas in the lungs, Newbern said. The death was related to incorrectly assembled anesthesia equipment, she added.

The equipment has been relabeled, staff members have been retrained, and sanitary conditions at Lawrenceville have been improved, she added.

The fine is not enough, said Michael Budkie, executive director of Stop Animal Exploitation Now, an Ohio-based animal rights organization.

Yerkes received about $40 million in 2006 in federal animal research funds. "Why should Emory care about a $15,000 fine?" Budkie said.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Zoo Guns Down Escaped Chimp

chimp shotIt had all the hallmarks of a Hollywood classic: The Great Escape all over again, with the two heroes in the title roles tunnelling their way to freedom – but with a tragic ending.

The high drama began yesterday at 10am, when Coco and Jonnie, both chimps, managed to escape from their enclosure at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire. The pair, whose species are known for their digging prowess, are thought to have tunnelled under their enclosure, making a cunning effort to gain freedom.

Zookeepers gave chase within minutes and though Coco, in her thirties, was easily rounded up Jonnie, an elderly chimp at 41-years-old, was more determined.

As keepers pursued the animals, visitors were warned to stay behind a cordon or were led to secure locations.

''Both are known as rascals," one keeper said. ''Jonnie can be a bit of a thug and we once had to put a sign outside Coco's cage saying, 'Beware: Coco spits and throws poo at people.' But we don't actually believe either was dangerous."

The zoo immediately deployed its escaped animal procedure, leading visitors to safety.

''Keepers moved quickly to recapture the chimps," a zoo spokesman said yesterday. ''No staff or members of the public were injured. But in the interests of public safety, Jonnie was shot. That is normal practice if a chimp cannot be recaptured. But at no stage was the safety of our visitors at risk."

Last night, with Coco back behind bars, the zoo launched an investigation to discover how the pair got away. The most likely theory was that they had dug an escape tunnel under the tall enclosure fence, built three years ago, although nothing was immediately found.

''We have made sure the enclosure is now escape-proof," said one keeper. ''But for the life of me I can't work out how they got out in the first place. Tunnelling seems the most likely method."

The zoo has six other chimps: Nicky, 23; Bonnie Louise, 21; Zephyr, 15; Grand and Phil, 11, and five-year-old Elvis. Jonnie and Coco lived at London Zoo with Cherry, Coco's mother, until last year. Before that, mother and daughter were kept at separate zoos for 25 years but when they were reunited in 1998 they recognised each other immediately.

David Field, the zoological director of London Zoo, who has known Jonnie and Coco for years, said: "It may have seemed a bit like a comic caper, but this had a tragic ending and has left us all devastated.

"It will also upset the other chimps, and particularly Coco who will be trying to understand where he has gone. The two of them were real characters and they had a roller-coaster relationship. Jonnie had a gentle disposition whereas Coco was more inquisitive. She was probably the ringleader."

Whipsnade Zoo had only just opened when the drama was played out yesterday, although all members of the public were ushered out of the zoo before the keepers attempted to round up the chimps.

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Spider Monkey Enjoys Brief Escape At Dallas Zoo

monkey escapeAt least one spider monkey escaped her enclosure at the Dallas Zoo on Friday but was returned after about 20 minutes of freedom, a zoo official said.

The monkey was one of three "elderly" females with no teeth who are no longer on exhibit. Once located, the monkey took the hands of a keeper and was returned to her enclosure behind the tamarind exhibit near where she was found, said Susan Eckert, zoo spokeswoman.

Zoo officials are investigating the escape.

One of the spider monkeys never left her enclosure, one stayed right in the doorway and another roamed about 25 feet away, Eckert said.

"It wasn't really like an escape," Eckert said. "She just sort of peeped out."

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