Thursday, November 29, 2007

Zoo Destroys Two Monkeys Who Fought Each Other

monkeys fightingA zoo that prides itself on conservation was widely condemned yesterday for destroying two rare monkeys because it could not find new homes for them.

Newquay Zoo in Cornwall had the Sulawesi crested black macaques put down by lethal injection because they kept fighting and could not be kept in the same cage. The zoo claims that it was impossible to rehouse the animals and it was fairer to have them destroyed as “the last resort” than keep them in isolation.

There is now one macaque, a ten-year-old male called Chicito, remaining at the zoo, which hopes to acquire a number of females to start a captive breeding programme.

The environmentalist David Bellamy described the decision to kill the animals as “bloody mad”, but Stewart Muir, director of the zoo, defended it. He said that the relationship between three male macaques had broken down and that the only option was to to remove the two weaker males and leave the dominant one.

“We have had a bachelor group of three macaques for several years,” he said. “Unfortunately all three became aggressive and were physically hurting each other. The relationship had irrecoverably broken down and the only option was to remove the two weaker macaques and leave the dominant male.

“It would not have been possible to rehouse them anywhere that could promise us they would not be placed in isolation,” he said. “No zoo would have taken them on and be able to introduce them to an existing group. Ultimately it is fairer to put the animals down.

“We would never consider selling them to a private collector as their welfare could not be guaranteed. The euthanasia came at the end of a lengthy consultation process with vets and our ethics committee.”

However, wildlife experts, conservations groups, other zoos and even Mr Muir’s own staff condemned the decision. One member of staff described him as a “murderer”. The man, who asked not to be identified, said: “Staff at Newquay Zoo were told not to tell anybody about the decision. If they do they might lose their jobs. I am disgusted, it is murder. Both monkeys were healthy.”

The two macaques that were destroyed were Venus, who was 10 and had been born at the zoo, and Ia, who was 11 and had been bred at Jersey Zoo. Macaques have a life expectancy in captivity of 20 to 25 years.

A spokeswoman for the charity Animal Aid described the decision as “horrific and unacceptable”. She said: “It is not an act of conservation – these animals have been treated as disposable commodities. [The zoo] clearly did not make the effort to find an alternative. There is a sanctuary very close by who were not even called for advice. The zoo took the easy way out, but it is a barbaric way to treat an animal, especially an endangered species.”

The Cornwall Monkey Sanctuary at Looe, Cornwall, said that it could have found homes for the monkeys had it been asked. Matt Thomas, the head keeper, said: “That’s quite awful and that would not happen here. It would never be an option that would be considered.”

David Bellamy said: “What were they thinking? We have a duty to protect endangered species. The first thing they should have done is ring London Zoo, where they have a breeding programme. If they couldn’t find another zoo they could have sold them to a private collector for thousands of pounds. They must be bloody mad. They should have followed every line of inquiry to find these macaques a new home.”

Newquay Zoo’s website boasts that it is an “education and scientific charity dedicated to conserving our global wildlife heritage and inspiring in its many visitors a lifelong respect for animals and the environment”.

Mr Muir said that 29 zoos across Europe were approached about the monkeys but were unable to offer them a home. His decision not to isolate them was supported by Dr Bengt Holst, chairman of the European Association of Zoos’ Conservation Committee and Conservation Breeding Specialist Group.

Dr Holst said: “These primates are social animals and to isolate them is a bad thing to do. We would rather euth-anise them than isolate or lock them up on their own. The first option would be to see if one or both of them could be sent somewhere else. If that’s an option that should be done.

“In general, euthanasia can be used as a management tool.”

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

'Taiping Four' Head Home

taiping fourThe 'Taiping Four' gorillas will be back in Cameroon on Friday, the National Zoological Gardens of SA and the International Fund for Animal Welfare said on Wednesday.

"The full repatriation team has gathered and is on standby," they said in a joint statement. The gorillas would board a plane late on Thursday and arrive back in Cameroon early on Friday.

The western lowland gorillas were sent to the Pretoria Zoo in 2004 at the request of Malaysia, which confiscated them in 2002 after discovering they had been illegally imported to its Taiping Zoo from Nigeria.

Cameroon asked that the animals be returned to their country of origin. The three females and a male are known as Izan, Abbey, Tinu and Oyin, and are aged between six and nine.

Trade in endangered species and violation of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was fast leading to the extinction of entire species, said Ifaw spokeswoman Christina Pretorius.

"The IUCN Red List recently moved the status of Western Lowland gorillas from endangered to critically endangered, largely as a result of being hunted, killed and captured for commercial use," she said.

The gorillas were to have been repatriated in December last year, but their return was put on hold in the absence of SA's formal consent to the relocation.

At the time, the government committed itself to ensuring the animals' safe return, and pledged to expedite the process.

Their relocation follows years of lobbying by, among others, the Born Free Foundation, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, the International Primates Protection League, and the Last Great Ape Organisation.

This amid arguments that the gorillas would be safer in SA, where they would be protected from poachers who might hunt them for meat. The Pretoria Zoo accommodated them in specially-constructed habitats.

Pretorius said on Wednesday that the gorillas would be sent to the Limbe Wildlife Centre sanctuary.

She said Limbe staff had spent the past two weeks at the Pretoria Zoo preparing the animals for departure. The zoo was sending two primate keepers to Cameroon with them to help them settle in.

"We don't anticipate any hitches in the coming few days and our veterinary team of experts and gorilla keepers are confident that our work will realise a seamless return for the gorillas to Cameroon," said the National Zoological Gardens of SA's executive director Dr Clifford Nxomani.

The animals will leave SA on board a scheduled Kenya Airways flight from Johannesburg, via Nairobi and on to Douala in Cameroon.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Moment Of Lopburi Monkey Festival Zen...

monkey festival
monkey festical
monkey day feast
monkey feast
monkey food
monkey lopburi
lopburi feast
monkeys lopburi
monkey feast
monkey festival
lopburi feast
monkey feast
The town of Lopburi in Thailand celebrated its annual Monkey Festival over the weekend, laying out a lavish banquet for the more than 2,000 macaques that roam freely through it.

Locals believe that providing food for the monkeys, Lopburi's most famous residents, brings good fortune and prosperity. The feast is also a sort of "thank you" for the animals whose antics entice thousands of tourists to the town every year.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Gorillas Fight Human Invaders Using Weapons

gorilla weaponWild gorillas have been seen using "weapons" for the first time, giving a new insight into how early man learned to use sticks and stones for fighting and hunting millions of years ago.

Researchers observed gorillas in the Cross River area of Cameroon throwing sticks, clumps of earth and stones at human "invaders".

It is the first time that the largest of the great apes has been seen to use tools in an aggressive way.

Experts believe that our ancestors may have learned to use sticks and stones in a similar way to frighten away predators.

The scientists noticed the unusual behaviour during a three-year study. They believe the animals might have learned to throw objects from humans who were seen throwing stones at the gorillas.

Jacqueline Sunderland Groves, from the University of Sussex in Brighton, a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society team, said: "The area is largely isolated from other gorilla groups, but there are herdsmen on the mountain.

"In one encounter a group of gorillas threw clumps of grass and soil at the researchers while acting aggressively. Another gorilla threw a branch. A third encounter saw the gorillas throwing soil at a local man who was throwing stones at the apes."

A gorilla was seen to use tools once before in the Congo, using sticks to test the depth of water and to cross swampy areas.

The findings suggest that the use of tools may predate the evolutionary split between apes and humans six million years ago.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Congo To Form Nature Reserve for Bonobos

congo bonobosCongo is setting aside more than 11,000 square miles of rain forest to help protect the endangered bonobo, a great ape that is the most closely related to humans and is found only in this Central African country.

U.S. agencies, conservation groups and the Congolese government have come together to set aside 11,803 square miles of tropical rain forest, the U.S.-based Bonobo Conservation Initiative said in a statement issued this week.

The area amounts to just over 1 percent of vast Congo — but that means a park larger than the state of Massachusetts.

Environment Minister Didace Pembe said the area was denoted as a protected reserve last week as part of the administration's goal of setting aside 15 percent of its forest as protected area. The Sankuru announcement increased the amount of protected land in Congo to 10 percent from 8 percent, he said.

The Sankuru Nature Reserve aims to protect a section of Africa's largest rain forest from the commercial bushmeat trade and from deforestation by industrial logging operations in the central part of the country known as the Congo Basin.

Sally Jewell Coxe, president of the Washington-based Bonobo Conservation Initiation, said the group has been working to establish the reserve since 2005, when it started meeting with leaders in villagers that ring the area to persuade them to stop hunting the ape.

Though local lore holds that washing a baby with the ashy remains of a bonobo will make the child strong, Coxe said many area villages have committed to ending the practice.

"We have agreements with many of the local villages that are on the edges of the park, and they will be the managers and be very involved in it," she said.

Bonobos — often lauded as the "peaceful ape" — are known for their matriarchal society in which female leaders work to avoid conflict, and their sex-loving lifestyle.

The bonobo population is believed to have declined sharply in the last 30 years, though surveys have been hard to carry out in war-ravaged central Congo. Estimates range from 60,000 to fewer than 5,000 living, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The Sankuru reserve also contains okapi, closely related to the giraffe, that is also native to Congo, elephants and at least 10 other primate species.

Startup funding has been provided through a grant of $50,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and about $100,000 from private donors, Coxe said.

"We're really thrilled; now comes the hard work of funding it for long term," Coxe said.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, November 16, 2007

Florida Wildlife Officers Investigate New 'Strange Ape' Sighting

Wildlife officers were back in Baker County on Thursday trying to confirm new sightings of a large, hairy primate in running loose in the woods.

The new reports came in overnight -- two weeks after Baker County Animal Control confirmed what appeared to be a large ape in a tree off Harry Rewis Road, north of Macclenny, according to WJXT-TV.

A resident north of Glen St. Mary reported seeing the animal running through the woods late Wednesday night. Early Thursday, the man saw orange peels and other things that could be remnants of an orangutan meal. Animal Control Officer Tina Thomas saw what she described as a "big red fur ball" -- possibly an orangutan -- sitting in a tree.

"We got this call and this man said, 'You are just not going to believe this and I'm not crazy.' I said, 'What is it? We've heard a lot of things.' He said, 'I have a monkey in my tree.'" Thomas said. "I thought the man was on drugs. I said, 'Are you sure?' He was like, 'I'm telling you I'm not on drugs and I ain't been drinking.'"

Not equipped with the proper training to handle such an exotic animal, Thomas said she immediately called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to send an officer out.

When Thomas got to the scene, she saw the animal and realized the caller was right.

"We got the binoculars and could see the whole body of the ape. He was red with a lighter color face," Thomas said.

About 100 feet up in a tree, the ape fit the description of an orangutan. She said the ape was about 3 or 4 feet tall and was curled up, nesting in a pile of leaves.

"We were just wondering where he had come from and if he was wild or somebody's pet. But he was definitely wild. He didn't like people," said Rock Rohden, who saw the ape.

When Fish and Wildlife arrived at the scene, the officer couldn't identify the animal and did not want to try to tranquilize the animal because it was 100 feet off the ground, so he set out a box of doughnuts and told folks to call him if it came down.

The orangutan apparently did come down, but no one saw it. The morning after the ape was spotted, it was gone.

"The game warden stated to leave the animal be, that he would remove himself on his own and that he was probably scared and would go on his way to where he needed to be," Thomas said.

Orangutans, known for their red fur, are native to Malaysia and Indonesia.

Thomas speculated that the animal may be a refugee from an off-road tourist attraction that was damaged by the storms in 2004.

A large patas monkey was captured in Columbia County one year ago. State officials said it belonged to a homeowner who had a permit.

Officials said it has been about two weeks since anyone has spotted the ape. They said anyone who sees the animal is advised not to go near it and to immediately call the wildlife alert line at 888-404-3922.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Rare Wooly Monkey Born At Sanctuary

woolly monkeyA rare woolly monkey has been born in a Dorset animal sanctuary as part of an endangered species breeding programme.

The primate, born at Monkey World at Wareham on Sunday, is being hand-reared by Alison Cronin after he was unable to suckle from his mother.

Mrs Cronin, sanctuary director, said the new arrival is the fifth Woolly Monkey born there since 1997.

"This is a great result as it is extremely difficult to breed them in captivity," Mrs Cronin said.

"I am pleased with the progress the new baby is making so far," she added.

The baby sleeps on a heat pad wrapped in blankets, weighs just over 400 grams (14 ounces), and requires feeding every two hours.

It is the half brother of Julio, who was born in May 2006 and also hand-reared by Mrs Cronin.

Julio was introduced back into his group at Monkey World when he was seven months old.

The woolly monkeys are bred as part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), along with the sanctuary's resident golden-cheeked gibbons and orang-utans.

The new baby woolly monkey and Alison Cronin (pic courtesy of Monkey World)
The baby is being fed every two hours by Alison Cronin

Monkey World said the success of its woolly monkey breeding programme was down to the staff's knowledge of the species' special requirements in captivity.

Female woolly monkeys are particularly susceptible to pre-eclampsia, or pregnancy related high blood pressure, just like human mothers.

This condition can be extremely dangerous to both mother and baby but the latest addition to the rescue centre and his mother are doing well.

Monkey World is also home to Xuzie, the oldest woolly monkey in captivity in the world.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Moment Of Monkey Clone Zen...

To follow up on the scientific breakthrough reported on Monday:

monkey clone poster

monkey egg
Handout image shows an egg held by a pipette and on the opposite side, to the right, the sharp (enucleation) pipette is pointed towards the nucleus. U.S. researchers have cloned monkeys and used the resulting embryos to get valued embryonic stem cells, an important step towards being able to do the same thing in humans, they reported on Wednesday.

semos cloned monkey
Semos, the monkey whose skin cells were used for embryonic cloning research, is shown in an undated handout photo at the Oregon Health and Science University's Oregon National Primate Research Center in Hillsboro, Oregon.

monkey embryos cloned
Research scientist Shoukhrat Mitalipov stands outside the monkey enclosure following a news conference to discuss his team's work in using skin cells from monkeys to create cloned embryos, at the Oregon Health and Science University's Oregon National Primate Research Center in Hillsboro, Oregon November 14, 2007.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

2007 Monkey Day Webcomics Marathon!

Once again, it is time for a call to arms to webcomics for this year's fourth annual Monkey Day Webcomics Marathon. For those unfamiliar with Monkey Day and the marathon please go to the FAQ located here.

Last year we were
boinged and featured in the Financial Times Of Duetschland. No, I'm not kidding, if you can read German and have a subscription, you can read it here. Previous years we have been featured in Montreal's Hour newspaper, L.A. Weekly's City Beat Calendar, a live radio interview from 700WLW in Cincinnati, and we have also been featured in Detroit's Metro Times. So, who knows where we will be turning up this year!

Participating in the marathon is a great way to promote your webcomic and an even better way to support a great idea. The genius behind Monkey Day wish only to help support and promote those webcomics who choose to be involved. The starting date for this year's marathon will be on a Thursday, December 7th. Those participating will be prominently featured this year on, as well as and permanently side-linked at the only place to find your monkey news online,

Sorry for the late notification this year, we had been delaying announcements hoping to have some new software to support the marathon in place for this year, but the new format will have to delayed until next year.

Hope to hear from you all, go
here for submission guidelines. And for all those webcomic readers, feel free to send this invitation to your favorite webcomic creator!

Add to Technorati Favorites

Small Florida Town Overcome By Mysterious Ape Sightings

Residents have been hearing screeches in the night and stories of sightings echo on every corner.

The local newspaper even ran a story about the sightings.

"There is kind of that 'I've seen a bigfoot' type of feel to it," said resident Eric Lawson. "They said it made a nest in that tree, so it's probably somewhere here in the area."

Some believe the mysterious animal is an orangutan -- one local family had found what looked to be an orange ape up high in a tree.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigator who answered the original complaint call on the orange ape said there was definitely something up in the top of the tree, but he really couldn't be sure what it was.

He said he took a pack of jelly donuts and left it at the bottom of the tree, hoping to lure the creature to the ground.

He said he hasn't heard anything since.

"The next morning, the people came out and it was, it was gone," Lawson said.

If the mysterious animal was an ape, where did it come from? State officials said no one in Baker County is licensed to own an orangutan.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Envious Monkeys Can Spot A Fair Deal

Monkeys invest less energy in a task if they see other monkeys receiving better rewards for the same effort, researchers report. They say that their experiment provides new evidence that non-human primates can feel envy. The findings could also help explain why humans have such a keen sense of fairness, according to experts.

Previous studies have found that monkeys put less effort into a task when they see cage-mates receiving tastier treats for completing the same task. But scientists have not felt confident in saying why the poorly rewarded animals slack off.

Some people have suggested the primates that refuse to repeat the task are simply greedy and therefore only willing to work for a bigger reward. Alternately, it has been proposed that the monkeys stop performing the task because they have received large rewards in the past and feel frustrated by the measly amounts offered in later trials.

To understand the monkeys' reluctance to participate in the task, Frans de Waal at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, US, and colleagues decided to try several variations on this experiment.
Fruits of labour

They trained 13 capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) to retrieve a small rock and place it in the experimenter's hands. In exchange for completing this task, the animals received a reward.

Pairs of monkeys were seated beside one another in a test booth, separated by a mesh partition. In one trial, the monkeys received the same sized cucumber reward for their efforts and 90% completed the task within 5 seconds.

But then the researchers gave one of the monkeys a grape instead of a cucumber. To a human this may seem like a minor detail, but monkeys go bananas over grapes, which they far prefer to cucumbers.

When the monkeys given cucumber saw their partners receive this grape reward, they invested less effort in future repetitions of the task, and completed it within 5 seconds only 80% of the time.

In a third scenario, the monkeys both received the same cucumber reward, but could see a bowl of grapes just beyond their reach. Under these circumstances, the animals performed the task with the same willingness as when the grapes were hidden. The researchers say that this rules out the possibility that the primates alter their behaviour out of greed.

De Waal's team also found that the monkeys exhibited the same patterns of behaviour regardless of whether they had received a grape or cucumber in preceding experiments, discounting the possibility that the animals slacked off out of frustration from unmet expectations.

They say the study "confirms that capuchin monkeys react negatively to situations in which they receive a less favourable reward than their partner for the same task. Our control procedures suggest that this response was due solely to the discrepancy between the monkey's own and the other's rewards and not to individual factors such as greed or frustration."

Other experts, however, note that earlier studies have shown that monkeys and chimps do not always care about fairness. Keith Jensen at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, recently demonstrated that chimpanzees will accept a rotten deal from a fellow chimp.

Jensen says that understanding how non-human primates view fairness can provide clues about how humans evolved a great capacity for cooperation. But he adds: "Human cooperation is special”.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Chimps Dig Tubers, Tool Study Finds

chimp toolsEven when food is plentiful above ground, chimps still choose to dig for roots and tubers, indicating that perhaps our hominid ancestors were not such big meat-eaters after all. Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin-Madison say that their work with chimps raises questions about the relative importance of meat for brain evolution.

The study documents the novel use of tools by chimps to dig for tubers and roots in the savanna woodlands of western Tanzania. Researcher Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar says the chimps' eagerness for buried treats offers new insights in an ongoing debate about the role of meat versus potato-like foods in the diet of our hominid ancestors. The debate centers on the diet followed by early hominids as their brain and body size slowly increased towards a human level. Was it meat-and-potatoes, or potatoes-and-meat? "Some researchers have suggested that what made us human was actually the tubers," Hernandez-Aguilar said.

Until now, anthropologists had believed that roots and tubers were mainly fallback foods for hominids trying to survive the harsh dry season in the savanna 3.5 million years ago. "We look at chimps for the way that we could have behaved when our ancestors were chimp-like," Hernandez-Aguilar said. Co-researcher Travis Pickering, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, added: "Savanna chimps, we would contend, are dealing with environmental constraints and problems - evolutionary pressures - that our earliest relatives would have dealt with as well."

The study was based on observation of 11 digging sites in the Ugalla savanna woodland of western Tanzania. Chimpanzees were linked to the excavated tubers and roots through knuckle prints, feces, and spit-out wads of fibers from those underground foods. Seven tools were found at three of the sites, with worn edges and dirt marking implying their use as digging implements.

"Chimpanzees in savannas have not been considered a priority in conservation plans because they live in low densities compared to chimps in forests," Hernandez-Aguilar noted. "We hope that discoveries such as this will show the value of conserving the savanna populations."

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Experts Find Jawbone Of Pre-Human Great Ape In Kenya, Missing Link?

ape jawboneResearchers have discovered a 10-million-year-old jaw bone in Kenya they believe belonged to a new species of great ape that could be the last common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees and humans.

The Kenyan and Japanese team found the fragment in 2005 along with 11 teeth in volcanic mud flow deposits in Kenya's northern Nakali region.

The species -- somewhere between the size of a female gorilla and a female orangutan -- may prove to be the "missing link" in the evolution theory, Kenyan scientists said.

"Based on this particular discovery, we can comfortably say we are approaching the point at which we can pin down the so-called missing link," said Frederick Manthi, Senior Research Scientist at the National Museums of Kenya.

"We have to find more fossils from a cross-section of sites to sustain that particular theory," he told a news conference.

Christened Nakalipithecus nakayamai, the new species fed on nuts, seeds and fruit.

"The teeth were covered in thick enamel and the caps were low and voluminous, suggesting that the diet of this ape consisted of a considerable amount of hard objects, like nuts or seeds, and fruit," Yutaka Kunimatsu at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute said in a telephone interview.

"It could be positioned before the split between gorillas, chimps and humans," he added.

Kunimatsu said it was hard to determine what Nakalipithecus nakayamai looked like.

"We only have some jaw fragments and some teeth ... but we hope to find other body parts in our future research. We plan to go back next year. We will try to find bones below the neck to tell us how the animal moved," he said.

Published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the finding is significant as it gives credence to the theory that the evolution from ape to man may have taken place entirely in Africa.

Prior to this finding, there had been so little fossil evidence in Africa dating between 7 to 13 million years ago that some experts began to surmise that the last common ancestor left Africa for Europe and Asia, and then returned later.

But Kunimatsu said the findings suggested that the ancestor of African great apes and humans likely evolved in Africa.

"Now, we have a good candidate in Africa. We do not need to think the common ancestor came back from Eurasia to Africa. I think it is more likely the common ancestor evolved from the apes in the Miocene in Africa," he said.

The Miocene is a period of time extending from 23.03 million to 5.33 million years ago.

"Some apes (then) left Africa and migrated to Eurasia. They then became orangutans in Southeast Asia. Today's orangutan evolved from the apes that left Africa," he said.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

PETA Infiltrates Oregon Primate Center

For the second time in a decade, an animal-rights activist has slipped past employment screeners at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, taken a job as a monkey handler and accused the facility of routinely abusing animals.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a national animal-rights group, planted one of its undercover investigators at the Hillsboro center from April 9 to July 25, officials at the nonprofit told The Oregonian.

The investigator, whom neither PETA nor the primate center would identify, took a job as an animal husbandry technician and secretly took notes and shot video to document her complaints. PETA will formalize her accusations today in a complaint to federal regulators.

"We are an open facility," declared Michael Conn, the associate director and acting head of the primate center's Department of Animal Resources, in a response Monday. Regulators have inspected the primate center three times since February, finding the facility in full compliance with federal law, he said. "There are no secrets here."

PETA's complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture accuses the primate center, a wing of Oregon Health & Science University, of violating eight provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, a federal law intended to guarantee humane treatment of research animals. Among PETA's allegations:

Primate center officials failed to provide timely or effective veterinary treatment for monkeys suffering chronic vomiting, diarrhea and kidney stones.

The center failed to ensure that employees were qualified to perform medical procedures, allowing a worker with palsied hands to give hypodermic injections that caused blood to spurt from a monkey's arm.

Workers failed to prevent monkeys from suffering trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm and unnecessary discomfort, sometimes putting sedated animals into group enclosures that exposed them to falls or attacks from other monkeys.

"The actions of (primate center) staff show a flagrant disregard for the law and for the animals for whom they are responsible," the complaint alleges.

Similar complaints from another animal rights infiltrator in 2000 were investigated by the USDA, and the center was found not to violate the law. Conn said he would be "absolutely shocked" if the new allegations were substantiated.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Marauding Monkey Caught In Delhi

A monkey which had attacked more than 25 people in an east Delhi locality over the weekend was caught on Tuesday morning, much to the relief of the frightened residents. "The marauding simian was caught from Shastri Park area with the help of a monkey-catcher.

It will be released in Asola area soon," an MCD spokesperson said in New Delhi. The monkey had gone on a rampage in the area on Saturday night attacking more than 25 people including children, creating terror among the residents. One of the victims is still battling for life in a hospital. The victims included many children.

Though baton-wielding residents kept a vigil in the area to catch the monkey, their efforts were wasted. It took two days for the municipal staff to catch the monkey.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

San Diego Zoo Announces Rare Bonobo Birth

The San Diego Zoo's Children Zoo nursery is caring for two of the world's most critically endangered great apes, called bonobos, which are rarely seen in the wild or in zoos. With wild populations being decimated at alarming rates in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the recent birth of a male infant named Tutapenda on Oct. 29 is a significant milestone for conservation efforts.

Bonobos are a very rare and endangered species native only to the DRC. They are very closely related to humans sharing 98.4 percent DNA and they are on the brink of extinction. The San Diego Zoo is one of only a handful of zoological institutions in the United States who houses and care for this rare species.

Tutapenda, which means "we will love" in Swahili was rejected by his mother shortly after birth. To ensure his survival, keepers are caring for him in the Childrens Zoo nursery. He joins his two-month-old half-sister Mali who is also being hand-raised due to medical complications at birth.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, November 12, 2007

Scientists Make Monkey Cloning Breakthrough

monkey cloningThe prospect of being able to clone human embyros efficiently for medical treatments has been raised by a technical breakthrough that has enabled scientists to make dozens of cloned embryos from adult monkeys for the first time.

Although primates have been cloned before using old fashioned “embryo splitting” methods, attempts to use the more efficient Dolly cloning technique have faced technical problems and saw a major setback with the controversy over fraudulent research in South Korea.

The new technique promises to revolutionise the efficiency by which scientists can turn human eggs into cloned embryos for use in so called therapeutic cloning to grow replacement cells and tissues for a vast range of treatments, though some commentators pointed out that while it looks promising, the team has not yet provided enough evidence to weigh up the full significance of today’s work.

If confirmed, the research by Shoukhrat Mitalipov at the Oregon National Primate Research Centre in Beaverton marks the first time that scientists have been able to use the Dolly cloning method to create large numbers of cloned embryos from an adult primate – in this case a 10-year-old male rhesus macaque monkey.

The findings were presented in June to a meeting in Australia and will appear in a peer reviewed journal within weeks.

Dr Mitalipov and his team will also demonstrate that they have been able to extract what appear to be stem cells from some of the cloned embryos and that they have managed to encourage these embryonic cells to develop in the laboratory into what seem to be mature heart cells and brain cells, neurons.

The development, which has seen by most in the field as inevitable given the wide range of species that can now be cloned, will stir unease among opponents of cloning who will argue that the new technique of manipulating primate eggs to improve cloning efficiency will lead to increased attempts at creating – and destroying – cloned human embryos for research purposes.

Although going one step further is illegal in many countries, such as Britain, this advance will increase the chances of its being applied to produce a cloned baby.

However, the Oregon team is believed to have tried with colleagues in China to implant about 100 cloned monkey embryos into the wombs of around 50 surrogate rhesus macaque mothers but have not yet succeeded with the birth of any cloned offspring.

Scientists in South Korea reported in 2004 that they had created the first cloned human embryo but in 2006 their study was retracted after it emerged that its main author, Hwang Woo-suk, had committed fraud, though there is still debate about what his team actually achieved.

Newcastle University in the UK did produce a documented example of a cloned human embryo, but there has since been little progress in this field.

Dr Mitalipov said he was unable to comment on the study until it was published in the journal Nature.

But he told colleagues at the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Cairns, Queensland, earlier this year that he had made two batches of stem cells from 20 cloned embryos and tests had shown they were true clones.

Earlier cloning attempts in monkeys used ultraviolet light and dyes as a guide while the DNA was being removed from eggs before DNA from a donor - the animal to be cloned - was introduced.

The Oregon researchers believe this damaged the resulting embryos.

Instead, their technique uses polarised light to visualise the egg’s interior during the process of “nuclear transfer”. In this basic method, the DNA containing nucleus of a healthy, unfertilised egg is removed and another nucleus from the mature skin cell of an adult animal is placed inside the egg.

With careful timing and the use of electrical pulses, an embryo can be created which is a genetic clone of the skin tissue donor.

"It’s proof of principle for human therapeutic cloning," said team member Don Wolf, also of the Oregon National Primate Research Centre.

The Oregon team has yet to show cells derived from the clones have all the characteristics of embryonic stem cells.

But already, other researchers are planning to try the same methods on human cells.

"The primate stuff really does give us renewed hope," New Scientist was told by Renee Reijo Pera, who heads a team using therapeutic cloning at Stanford University in California.

Dr Simon Best, Chair of the UK BioIndustry Association, said that “this sounds promising and could well mark significant progress - Oregon is a highly respected lab - however, there is no evidence that the stem-cells created are pluripotent (cardio and neuro are default derivatives for many types of stem-cells ) and functional in any type of grafting/transplantation - and no evidence yet that the embryos are viable - some established pregnancies and a birth would be required to bolster this.”

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Chimp at Little Rock Zoo Dies

Officials say an elderly chimpanzee at the Little Rock Zoo died after suffering from congestive heart failure and other maladies.

Zoo keepers say they found Kim dead in her favorite hammock bed Thursday night. They say a necropsy found a large, likely cancerous tumor in her stomach.

Records estimate Kim, caught in the wild in Africa, likely was born in 1961, though zoo keepers say she was likely older. She had lived at the zoo since 1969.

She gave birth to a male chimp named Gomez while in captivity. Gomez now lives at the Sedgewick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Ape Returns To Cancer Research Center After Escaping

escaped chimpA 160-pound chimpanzee that escaped from a cancer research center in Bastrop County has was found Friday.

The search started around 10 a.m. Friday at the Michael E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine & Research, which is located at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The facility is owned by the University of Texas.

The ape is believed to have been found on the north side of the campus.

A Bastrop County sheriff's deputy confirmed at 12:20 p.m. that they did find the 17-year-old chimp, named Jake.

The chimp escaped from one of the corrals on the inside of the research facility. There are eight corrals that hold about 150 chimps.

According to UT staff, more than one chimp escaped, but the others were caught right away.

People involved in the search surrounded the 381-acre campus.

Staff said the chimp didn't have any diseases and was involved in behavioral science research. He was considered dangerous, though, because he was undomesticated.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Simian Attack Leaves 25 Hurt In East Delhi

A monkey injured some 25 people, including children and women, in an East Delhi locality giving sleepless nights to its residents.

The simian attack, lasting three hours, was reported from Shastri Park area on Saturday night and locals claimed some 25 people received injuries.

Lathi-wielding residents kept a vigil throughout the night but failed to catch the monkey.

"We were sleeping on the terrace when I was attacked by the monkey," Sariana, who suffered injuries on her left hand, said.

Last month, Delhi's Deputy Mayor met with a tragic end when he fell down from the first floor of his residence following an attack by a monkey.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Monkey Brain Reveals Ancient Ventriloquism Secret

There's a brain region in monkeys that processes sight and sound simultaneously and offers new insights into how the brain builds a complete picture of the world based on input from our senses.

The finding, detailed online this week in the journal for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could hold the key to explaining how ventriloquists create the illusion their puppets can speak and help shed light on synesthesia, a rare neurological condition in which two or more senses are intertwined.

"The prevailing wisdom among brain scientists has been that each of the five senses — sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste — is governed by its own corresponding region of the brain," said study team member Jennifer Groh, a neurobiologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "Now we are beginning to appreciate that it's not that simple."

The researchers found by studying rhesus monkeys that the inferior colliculus, a tiny structure in the brain known to be important for hearing, can respond simultaneously to visual input from the eyes and sound information from the ears.

The inferior colliculus is less than a half-inch in diameter and is one of several early stops for signals flowing from the ear to the cortex, the analytical part of the brain that stitches sense stimuli together into coherent thoughts. Previous studies had shown that the inferior colliculus also receives inputs from nerve cells in the retina.

"Our results show that there are interactions between the sensory pathways that occur very early in the process, which implies that the integration of the different senses may be a more primitive process and one not requiring high-level brain function," Groh said. "This means that visual and auditory information gets combined quite early, and before the 'thinking part' of the brain can make sense of it."

This has implications for ventriloquism. In ancient times, the ability to throw one's voice was associated with magic and witchcraft and the ability to commune with the dead. Nowadays, it is mainly viewed as a neat trick, and aspiring magicians can learn it by following instructions found on the Web.

While the trick is no longer a secret, how ventriloquism fools the brain has remained unknown. The new study suggests that the association between the voice and the moving mouth of the puppet dummy is made before the viewer consciously thinks about it.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oldest Gorilla In Melbourne Zoo Dies

betsy gorillaBetsy, the oldest western lowland gorilla at Melbourne Zoo, died yesterday aged 50.

A central figure in the zoo's breeding program for the endangered species, Betsy had been losing weight for several months and began refusing to eat or drink in recent days.

She suffered from cardiac disease and in 2003 had a kidney removed after a life-threatening infection.

Zoos Victoria's director of life sciences, Matt Vincent, said while her death was not unexpected, due to her age, it was a significant loss.

Betsy was euthanased yesterday.

"Everyone who works at Melbourne Zoo will share in the sadness of this loss, but Betsy will always be remembered as having played a major role in the gorilla breeding program," Mr Vincent said.

Betsy arrived from Taronga Zoo in 1980, and later produced two offspring - Buzandi, who is now in a breeding program in Germany, and Bambuti, who is in a breeding program in Britain's Channel Islands with Mzuri, Australia's first gorilla baby.

Western lowland gorillas are under extreme threat in the African wild. Much of the tropical forest primates' habitat is being cleared, while they are also killed for their meat, which is sold in cities and towns.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, November 05, 2007

Springfield Eyed As Home Of Monkey That Bit Two Kids In Columbia

Local health officials say they may have identified the owner of a pet monkey that bit two children in a Columbia park and set off a statewide primate hunt.

Environmental health manager Gerry Worley told the Columbia Daily Tribune Friday that a Springfield woman is wanted for questioning in the incident.

The monkey saga began on Sept. 22, when a woman showed up at Stephens Lake Park with a monkey that bit 7-year-old Liam Ritten and an unnamed 11-year-old girl. Witnesses said the woman mouthed the words “I'm sorry” and left the park.

The monkey was identified through photographs as a rhesus macaque, a species known in rare instances to carry Simian B virus, a deadly disease.

Worley identified the animal's possible owner as Libby Brozovich, of Springfield. In a brief telephone interview with the Tribune, Brozovich denied any involvement.

“My monkey has not bitten anybody. All I can say to you is: Where is the proof? We're five hours away,” she said.

But Curtis Brozovich, of Mount Vernon, told the newspaper that he recognized his stepmother as the monkey's owner from a photograph of the pet and its owner taken in downtown Columbia the day of the bites. The two have been estranged for almost a year.

Libby Brozovich is well-known in Mount Vernon for carrying the monkey into stores and to public events, her stepson said.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Update: Babysitter Monkey

Ran across this video to follow up on the previous babysitter monkey story:

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites