Thursday, December 18, 2008

Farting Gorillas Force Brussels Sprouts Off Zoo's Christmas Menu

gorillas brussels fartZoo managers have taken Brussels sprouts off the Christmas menu after the vegetable caused an attack of flatulence in their gorillas.

The staff at Chessington Zoo fed the giant apes on the seasonal favourite as they are filled with nutritional goodness. However, they hadn't reckoned with the gassy qualities of the tiny veggies.

Now the zoo has issued an apology after guests at the zoo expressed their horror at the potent smell that started emanating from the gorillas' enclosure.

Gorilla keeper Michael Rozzi said: "We feed the gorillas brussel sprouts during the winter because they are packed with vitamin C and have great nutritional benefits.

"Unfortunately, an embarrassing side effect is that it can cause bouts of flatulence in humans and animals alike.

"However, I don't think any of us were prepared for a smell that strong."

Story here.

Lemur Virus Gives Clues To Evolution Of HIV

LEMURA squirrel sized lemur from Madagascar has given scientists new evidence about the origins of the HI virus and opened up promising new avenues for investigation.

Robert Shafer, a senior author of the research, told IRIN/PlusNews that the discovery "is one of the most important missing links" required for understanding the evolutionary history of HIV-related viruses.

It is widely believed that the two strains of HIV prevalent in humans, HIV-1 and HIV-2, were passed on by primates from Africa, and that these primates have harboured the disease for a million years at the most. But the discovery of a virus related to HIV in the genetic make-up of the tiny grey mouse lemur, found only in Madagascar, has turned these beliefs on their head.

The new findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 1 December, suggest that lentiviruses, the family of viruses to which the HIV-1 and HIV-2 belong, have been present in primates for at least 14 million years. That was the last time the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar was linked to mainland Africa, allowing the disease to pass to lemurs.

"Our discovery means that primate lentiviruses have been present in Madagascar historically and may still be circulating there," Robert Gifford, an infectious disease researcher at the Stanford School of Medicine and lead author of the research, told IRIN/PlusNews. "Since Madagascar has been very isolated throughout evolutionary history, it's not clear how we could have these viruses present both there and in Africa, unless they are in fact many millions of years old."

Scientists now believe that lentiviruses could be at least 50 million years old, and that they may be found in primates throughout the world.

More than 25 million people across the world have died of AIDS-related illnesses since the HI virus was first identified in the United States 27 years ago. Two-thirds of the 33 million people infected with HIV globally live in sub-Saharan Africa, but Madagascar's HIV prevalence rate has so far remained below 1 percent. The prevalence of syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, however, suggest that the virus could spread rapidly.

The recent findings from Stanford University are unlikely to radically change the course of research into HIV and AIDS in the short term, but are expected to have a major impact on scientists' broader understanding of the virus.

"If we are ever going to properly understand the relationships between lentiviruses and disease, assess the risk of new epidemics occurring, and harness the body's natural defences to prevent and control HIV infections, we need to establish the proper ecological and evolutionary contexts," Gifford said.

He described the lentivirus material found in the genetic make-up of the grey mouse lemur as "molecular fossils" that show how viruses looked hundreds of thousands or even millions of years ago. This is important, as it helps scientists understand the functions of different genes within a virus, and to assess the limits of virus adaptation and potential vulnerabilities - information that could be used to help develop new ways to prevent and treat infections in humans.

However, Gifford warned that there was still a long road ahead. "Like many things in science, our findings raise as many questions as they provide answers," he said. "But the important thing is that they reveal something new and completely unexpected about the evolutionary relationship between primates and lentiviruses."

Story here.

Zoo Chimp Takes Revenge On Visitors

chimp revengeMithu Mondal, 30, and her six-year-old daughter Nikita were hurt at Kolkata zoo in India when Babu, a male chimpanzee, threw stones at them, the zoo reported.

The chimp was reacting angrily after being teased by crowds on Sunday afternoon.

The zoo's director said visitors had been trying to attract the chimp's attention, something which happens regularly.

The two victims were taken to hospital and released after treatment.

Last year, Babu and a female chimpanzee escaped from their enclosure by breaking the lock.

Zoo authorities have repeatedly asked visitors not to throw stones, but people take no notice.

"Unless people throw stones, there is no way the chimpanzees can have stones in their enclosures," an official said.

Story here.

Abused Chinese Monkeys Beat Up Trainer

abused monkeysA trio of performing monkeys turned on their trainer when he beat one of them with a stick as they rode mini bicycles in a market in Sizhou, eastern China. One twisted his ears and another pulled out his hair in handfuls and bit his neck. Then when the trainer dropped the cane, the third one picked it up and started hitting him around the head with it until the stick broke.

The dazed trainer said afterwards: “They were once wild and these performances don’t always come naturally to them. They may have built up some feelings of hatred towards me.”

Police are investigating allegations of animal cruelty and may confiscate the monkeys.

Story here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Monkey Day!

Happy Monkey Day everyone, don't forget those in the Greater Lansing area can attend the official Monkey Day Charity Art Auction benefiting Chimps Inc.

monkey day after
And please, remember to celebrate Monkey Day responsibly.

happy monkey day

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gorilla Birth At San Francisco Zoo, Surrogate Mother Sought

gorilla bornKeepers handling the newborn gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo went to Plan B on Wednesday, hoping to find a surrogate gorilla mother for a baby whose own mom is showing little interest in him.

"This is our next best option to get this gorilla raised as a gorilla, by a gorilla," said Corinne MacDonald, curator of primates at the zoo. "We're very lucky that we have this as an option."

The baby male, born Monday and yet to be named, is healthy and acting, well, like a baby gorilla should. He nursed from his mother after keepers had her anesthetized Tuesday in hopes she would give the newborn another chance when she awoke.

"His instincts were right on. His instincts were perfect," MacDonald said.

The only problem was that mom, an endangered western lowland gorilla named Monifa, still didn't appear to be interested in the newborn. Tuesday night, she bedded down in the gorilla enclosure about as far away as she could from her infant, MacDonald said.

The baby gorilla was taken to the zoo hospital overnight and returned Wednesday to a specially set up nursery that is separated from the main gorilla enclosure only by mesh, allowing the baby to hear, see and smell his brethren, and vice versa.

The hope is that Bawang, an elder female in the troop who has already raised offspring, will take to the little guy like one of her own. She already has shown interest since his birth, MacDonald said. It's also possible Monifa will see that interaction and decide to raise her baby.

It is not unheard of for gorillas to ignore their young, and Monifa is a peripheral member of the troop who may not feel comfortable with an offspring, MacDonald said.

If neither female gorilla takes to the baby, zookeepers will rear him themselves and try to get him to integrate with the troop when he's older, MacDonald said.

Two specialists in raising gorilla babies are heading to San Francisco from the zoo in Columbus, Ohio, she said. In the interim, zoo staffers wearing hospital scrubs and face masks are caring for the baby.

The baby gorilla, part of the critically endangered lowland western species, was the first born at the zoo in 10 years.

Story here.

SPCA Saves Chimpanzee Living in 'Deplorable Conditions'

chimp rescuedThe Houston SPCA recently seized a 23-year-old, malnourished chimpanzee from a home in Crosby, Texas.

The chimp, named Henry, was found living in a filthy cage littered with soda cans, cigarettes and trash.

Investigators learned he’d been living in those conditions for the past 15 years.

When he was found, Henry was so weak he could hardly stand and weighed only 60 pounds.

Upon his emergency medical evaluation, doctors discovered Henry was suffering from a bacterial infection of the stomach, among other maladies.

“Due to malnutrition and lack of exposure to light, Henry is suffering from a spinal deformity. When we confiscated him, he had severe vomiting, and constipation. We are thankful to the veterinary staff at the Houston Zoo who incorporated medical and dietary therapy to resolve these issues. Since Henry had lived in this type of environment for a substantial length of time, he will never be 100 percent medically and physically sound. However, we hope with proper diet and care, he can live out the remainder of his life in comfort,” Vice President of Animal Welfare Dr. Teri Schweiss said.

The SPCA said Henry will not be placed for adoption. Instead, they are securing a sanctuary placement where he will be able to live out the remainder of his life with other chimps and under the care of individuals who can meet his needs.

Story here.

Baby Attacked By Monkey Troop In India

Monkey menace came to fore once again when a group of over half-a-dozen monkeys attacked and injured a two-month old baby boy on Thursday afternoon. The incident was reported from sector C of Jankipuram here.

Identified as Sujal Srivastava, the baby had been taken to the terrace of the house by his grandmother. The baby was lying on a mattress and his grandmother was sitting besides him when suddenly a gang of monkeys came on the terrace and attacked the child, even as the woman tired to save him from the simians. Before the child's grandmother could come to his rescue, the monkeys had seriously injured the baby, who cried incessantly with blood oozing out from his head and hands.

Hearing the cries, locals rushed to the spot and freed the baby boy from the simians. Sujal was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital.

Story here.

Orangutan's Spontaneous Whistling Opens New Chapter In Study Of Evolution Of Speech

Update. Video here:

orangutan whistlesThroughout history, human beings have used the whistle for everything from hailing a cab to carrying a tune. Now, an orangutan's spontaneous whistling is providing scientists at Great Ape Trust of Iowa new insights into the evolution of speech and learning.

In a paper published this month in Primates, an international journal of primatology that provides a forum on all aspects of primates in relation to humans and other animals, Great Ape Trust scientist Dr. Serge Wich and his colleagues provide the first-ever documentation of a primate mimicking a sound from another species without being specifically trained to do so. Bonnie, a 30-year-old female orangutan living at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., began whistling a sound that is in a human's, but not an orangutan's, repertoire after hearing an animal caretaker make the sound.

"This is important because it provides a mechanism to explain documented between-population variation in sounds for wild orangutans," Wich said. "In addition, it counters a long-held assumption that non-human primates have fairly fixed sound repertoires that are not under voluntary control. Being able to learn new sounds and use these voluntarily are also two important aspects of human speech and these findings open up new avenues to study certain aspects of human speech evolution in our closest relatives."

Previous studies have indicated that orangutans and chimpanzees are capable of species-atypical sounds and vocalizations, but only under the strong influence of human training. Bonnie, however, was not explicitly trained to whistle, according to Wich and his co-authors Great Ape Trust scientists Dr. Karyl Swartz and Dr. Rob Shumaker; Madeleine E. Hardus and Adriano R. Lameira, doctoral candidates at the Utrecht University in The Netherlands assigned to the Ketambe Research Center in Sumatra, where Wich is research co-manager; and Erin Stromberg, an animal caretaker at the National Zoo.

Scientists have long known that orangutans copy physical movements of humans, but Bonnie's whistling indicates that the learning capacities of orangutans and other great apes in the auditory domain might be more flexible than previously believed, Wich said. The behavior goes against the argument that orangutans have no control over their vocalizations and the sounds are purely emotional that is, an involuntary response to stimuli such as predators.

Bonnie appears to whistle for the sake of making a sound rather than to receive a food reward or some other incentive. If asked to whistle, she is likely to oblige, another indication to scientists that she makes the sound voluntarily.

In their paper, Wich and his colleagues also shared anecdotal information about Indah, a female orangutan who lived with Bonnie at the National Zoo before moving to Great Ape Trust in 2004. Indah also began to whistle some years after Bonnie was first observed making the sound in the late 1980s, but Indah died before recordings could be made of her whistles. Scientists believe that Indah's whistling was a vocalization learned from Bonnie.

That compares with what scientists assume about social learning in wild orangutan populations. For example earlier work by Dr. van Schaik and colleagues showed that wild orangutans in one population make a "raspberry" sound during nest-making, while orangutans in another population make a "nest smack" sound when engaged in the same activity. Wich said it's unlikely that purely genetic or ecological factors explain the differences in sounds of different orangutan populations. Rather, it's more likely others copy one orangutan's innovative sound because the sound serves a function.

"This is a very strong indication that different sounds among wild populations are learned and are not purely genetically or ecologically based," Wich said. "This is a great indication that orangutans can learn sounds not in their repertoire from another species, and they are flexible in using them."

The scientific investigation with Bonnie at the National Zoo was supported in part by a grant from the David Bohnett Foundation and complements field studies of wild orangutans, where differences have been noted in the call repertoires between populations. A strength at Great Ape Trust is the ability of its scientists to conduct simultaneous studies on both captive orangutans and wild orangutans on the Indonesian island of Sumatra at the Ketambe Research Center, where Wich is research co-manager.

"Bringing captive and field research together is an unharvested field," Wich said, "and it offers great potential to Great Ape Trust."

The research also builds on earlier investigations by ape language pioneer Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh a scientist with special standing at Great Ape Trust, and others on the ability of great apes to imitate human speech. Specifically, Savage-Rumbaugh's 1991 investigation centered on whether the bonobo Kanzi, a member of the colony of bonobos now living at Great Ape Trust, might have structurally different vocalizations than bonobos in another group. In a 2004 study, Savage-Rumbaugh looked at whether Kanzi was attempting to imitate human speech.

The results of these studies did enlarge scientists' appreciation of the plasticity in primate sound and vocal learning and indicated that primates might have some plasticity to produce completely new sounds, Wich and his colleagues wrote.

The new findings reopen the door on such research.

"One of the main things we do not understand yet is the evolution of speech," Wich said.

Wich will present the findings on Dec. 18 at a scientific symposium on orangutan genetics at the University of Zrich, Switzerland.

Story here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Woman Who Hid Sedated Monkey On Flight Convicted

monkey smugglerA Spokane woman who hid a sedated monkey under her blouse on a flight from Thailand to Los Angeles — pretending she was pregnant — has been convicted of smuggling charges.

Gypsy Lawson, 29, successfully passed through U.S. Customs in Los Angeles with the rhesus monkey hidden in her shirt after the November 2007 trip.

Her mother, Fran Ogren, 55, of Northport, Wash., accompanied her on the flight from Bangkok and was also convicted.

A jury found the two women guilty Monday on separate charges of conspiracy and smuggling goods into the United States. Sentencing is set for March 3.

They were arrested after Lawson boasted to a clothing store clerk about the airport escapade.

The monkey is now at a primate rescue facility in Oregon.

Story here.

New Group Of Critically Endangered Tonkin Snub-Nosed Monkeys Found

SNUB NOSE MONKEYSA critically Endangered species of monkey has been unexpectedly found in north-western Vietnam. Biologists from Fauna and Flora International said they had found new sub-population of up to 20 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys in a remote forest. Until now, fewer than 250 of the primates were thought to exist.

The team said the new group offered a ray of hope because it included three infants, suggesting that the monkeys were breeding and increasing in number. Until now, the monkeys had only been recorded in a few north-eastern areas within Vietnam, with no group exceeding 50 mature adults.

Hunting and deforestation has led to a continued decline in the species. The species inquisitive nature also meant that they did not flee when approached by humans, increasing the risk of being shot by hunters. Biologists however observed this new sub-population were more wary of people, issuing warning signs to each other, perhaps associating humans with danger, as a result of ongoing threats from hunters.

“All recent indications suggest that we have a fantastic opportunity to secure this population and significantly increase the chances of survival of this species,” explained Paul Insua-Cao, FFI’s Vietnam primate program manager. Measures including curbing the growing of crops in the area’s tropical forests and confiscating hunters’ guns have already been introduced since the new sub-population was first recorded in April 2008.

Story here.

3 Charred Monkeys Found in Luggage at Dulles Airport

mon key luggageCustoms officials searching the bags of an African man who flew into Dulles International Airport on Friday discovered three charred monkeys in his luggage, as well as deer meat and dried beef, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said yesterday.

The man was traveling from Bangui in Central African Republic, a small country north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He admitted he was carrying the meat, a common food in parts of Africa, after a trained dog alerted authorities to the man's bag, customs spokesman Steve Sapp said.

The monkey carcasses, inadmissible under U.S. law, were confiscated and are being inspected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; monkeys can easily introduce infectious diseases to humans, Sapp said. The other meat was destroyed, and the man was allowed to enter the country without penalty, Sapp said.

Foreigners visiting the United States sometimes try to bring with them exotic foods that are part of their native cuisines, especially around the holidays. But this was "a first for many of us," Sapp said.

Primates are a common food source in the Central African region, said Heather E. Eves, director of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, a nonprofit that researches the trade in African "bushmeat," the flesh of wild animals. Eves said that the monkeys' charred appearance comes from the animals' being smoked and that the meat is typically used to make stew.

Primates are also known to carry diseases such as monkeypox, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, she said.

The traveler was not identified because he was not arrested, Sapp said. Foreigners who attempt to conceal agricultural products from customs officials can face fines, usually about $300, Sapp said.

"If they're not trying to hide anything from us, they're not being combative . . . we let them go on their way," Sapp said.

Story here.

Bobby The Gorilla Dead At London Zoo

bobby gorillaOfficials at the London Zoo said the attraction's 25-year-old male silverback gorilla has died of unknown causes.

The zoo said in a statement that the gorilla, named Bongo Junior -- Bobby for short -- was found dead in his nest Friday morning, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"He was a dearly loved resident and will be sadly missed by all," a zoo spokeswoman told The Daily Mail. "Our keepers are incredibly upset, and it is asked that everyone respect the feelings of staff during this difficult time."

Ralph Armond, director-general of the Zoological Society of London, which runs the zoo, said workers and members of the public are "devastated" by the death of the "gentle giant."

"Bobby was a much-loved member of the ZSL family and leaves behind his family of keepers and three female gorillas, Mjukuu, 9, Effie, 15, and Zaire, 34," Armond said.

Story here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Monkey Day Charity Art Auction

monkey day art auction chimpThis year Monkey Day is sponsoring a charity silent art auction on Sunday, December 14th, to benefit our simian friends at Chimps Inc. From their website:

"Chimps Inc. is a nonprofit, 501(C)3-1 wildlife sanctuary dedicated to furthering chimpanzee conservation through education. It was founded by Lesley Day in 1995 in response to the multitude of captive chimpanzees desperately in need of homes. Our private sanctuary provides a place of refuge for those apes that have come from roadside zoos, entertainment industry and the private sector. "

Kimie the chimp from Chimps Inc. created the pictured hand print/painting that will be one of two chimp paintings up for bid at the silent auction.

More information at or the Facebook Monkey Event.

Fundraising Project To Help Mountain Gorillas Launched

The project S.O.S Gorilla has been created to raise funds to help the gorilla preservation. Thanks to the support of the Barcelona Zoo and Eaza (European Association of Zoos And Aquaria), we’ ve found an association who will make sure the funds will help the endangered ape, Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe.

Since 1984, the Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe has been dedicated to the conservation of gorillas, especially the mountain gorillas, and their habitats. The Board consists of three honorary members who contribute their skills and experience in different disciplines. As project planning has to incorporate not only biological but also economic, social and political aspects, this multidisciplinary approach is very important. They focus their work on the eastern gorillas by supporting projects contributing to the conservation of these animals. Occasionally, they also support projects for the conservation of certain populations of western gorillas that are particularly at risk.

In addition, they support research activities of (predominantly local) scientists. With competent members the Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe also takes part in population censuses and ecological studies. Finally, they provide necessary equipment to support the important work of the rangers. Whenever possible, they cooperate with other international organisations also concerned with the conservation of the last remaining mountain gorillas, considering a constant exchange of information between all parties working for the threatened gorillas as very important.

Visit the website here.


Rare Gorilla Twins Born In Uganda

gorilla twinsRare mountain gorilla twins have been born in Uganda's Bwindi Forest, home to around half the world's population of the endangered primates, a wildlife official said Wednesday.

The twins were born to a gorilla called Kwintonda early last month, said Lillian Nsubuga, spokeswoman for the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

"It is only the second time in history that we are aware of twins being born in Uganda," Nsubuga told AFP, adding that the twins were healthy.

"The fact that they have survived the harsh rains of November means that they are probably going to be OK."

Mountain gorillas are the cornerstone of Uganda's tourism industry and Nsubuga predicted the twins' arrival will boost tourist numbers.

"The word hadn't really gotten out, so it was a pleasant surprise for some tourists. But now that the information is public, we expect that many tourists will be requesting to see the family."

Bwindi is home to an estimated 340 mountain gorillas, around half the global population, according to the most recent survey conducted between 2006 and 2007.

The twins were sired by Safari, a dominant male, who took over the leadership of his group in April after the death of his predecessor.

Kwitonda is estimated to be between 15 to 20 years old. Female gorillas begin bearing children at between seven to eight years of age and continue up to 30.

Story here.

Monkey Skin Cells Reprogrammed Into Stem Cells

Scientists have successfully created the first induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines from adult monkey skin cells. The research, published by Cell Press in the December issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell, demonstrates that the method of direct reprogramming is conserved among species and may be useful for creation of clinically valuable primate models for human diseases.

Although previous work has shown that induction of four key transcription factors can reprogram adult mouse and human skin cells into iPS cells, creation of iPS cells in other species has not been demonstrated. "We sought to generate monkey iPS cells from skin cells isolated an adult male rhesus macaque using the predicted monkey transcription factors OCT4, SOX2, KLF4 and c-MYC," explains Dr. Hongkui Deng from the Key Laboratory of Cell Proliferation and Differentiation at Peking University in Beijing, China.

Dr. Deng and colleagues used retroviruses expressing these four factors to infect adult monkey skin cells. This technique led to creation of cells which displayed multiple hallmarks of embryonic stem (ES) cells. Specifically, the cells exhibited physical characteristics associated with ES cells, expressed genes appropriate for ES cells and possessed the ability to develop into multiple types of differentiated cells. These results reveal that monkey iPS cells can be generated using the same four transcription factors that have been used to successfully create mouse and human iPS cells.

The work has multiple exciting applications. "As the rhesus macaque is the most relevant primate model for most human diseases, highly efficient generation of monkey iPS cells would allow investigation of the treatment of various diseases in this model," offers Dr. Deng. "In addition, direct reprogramming with the four transcription factors could be a universal strategy for generating iPS cells in other species."

Story here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Diabetic Monkey Trained For Daily Insulin Injections

george monkeyGeorge, a nine-year-old De Brazza monkey, knows when it is time for its insulin and is a willing volunteer when its keeper enters its enclosure each morning.

One of eight De Brazzas at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Ashford, Kent, the animal leaves its troop and scampers across to welcome its keeper.

"He presents himself at 9am, puts his bottom in the air, and has the insulin," said Tricia Corkhill, a spokesman for the park. "Afterwards he jumps up and wants his food."

Matt Crittenden, the monkey's keeper who is also a diabetic, said: "We have been very lucky because he has trained himself.

"He knows he feels better after the injection so he comes in and presents himself. We give him the injection and he goes again.

"No-one likes being stabbed with a needle but it is an incredibly small needle and does not hurt a bit. It is just annoying."

Mr Crittenden added: "Now he is able to live a normal life, live life to the full, just like a human can."

A second monkey at the park, Nancy, aged 12, is also suffering from diabetes but is not such a willing patient. The Capuchin monkey has to be separated from her siblings to receive her daily insulin.

Story here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ape Artists Raise Funds For Conservation

ape paintingAn art exhibition showcasing colourful paintings by bonobos and orangutans is on until the 30th November in West Des Moines, Iowa, US.

Apes Helping Apes is held by the Great Ape Trust, a scientific institute that studies great ape intelligence and behaviour. The proceeds from the sale of the original paintings will go towards raising money to help conserve great apes in the wild.

Last year $16,725 was raised by the exhibition and this supported the Gishwati Area Conservation Program in Rwanda and the Ketambe Research Center on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Orangutans and bonobos are given the choice of whether they want to paint - and according to the Great Ape Trust, their daily lives are enriched immeasurably by such creative activities. The Trust also states that skills such as choosing canvases and colours and whether to make small, careful marks or big dramatic ones, are all within the ape's control.

Story here.

Monkey’s Provide Clues Into Social Origins Of Language

monkeysResearchers say the stereotype of women being the chattier sex may indeed be true.

A research team at Roehampton University in London observing a female-centric group of macaques noticed that the gossipy nature of the monkeys might add weight to the theory that human language evolved to forge social bonds.

Many experts theorize that language replaced grooming as a less time-consuming way of preserving close societal bonds.

The university researchers tested the theory by hypothesizing that species of animals with large social networks, such as macaques, should consider vocal exchanges to be just as important as grooming.

A group of 16 female and eight male macaques living on Cayo Santiago Island off Puerto Rico were observed for three months. The researchers counted the grunts, coos and girneys - friendly chit-chat between two individuals - while ignoring calls specific to the presence of food or a predator.

They noticed that females made 13 times as many friendly noises as males.

Greeno says the results suggest that females rely on vocal communication more than males due to their need to maintain the larger social networks.

The team reported that females were also much more likely to chat to other females than to males.

“This is because female macaques form solid, long-lasting bonds as they stay in the same group for life and rely on their female friends to help them look after their offspring,” Greeno suggests.

In contrast, males, who rove between groups throughout their life, chatted to both sexes equally.

This study marks the first time that sex differences in communication in non-human primates have been identified.

Experts say it is still unclear as to whether early human societies were female-centric, as macaques are. But the team believes their findings support the theory that human language evolved to strengthen ties between individuals.

Those who study primate communication agree that the findings back the theory of language development.

“In all social species, communication helps individuals navigate their daily social lives, usually by influencing the minds and behavior of group members,” said Klaus Zuberb├╝hler from the University of St Andrews in the UK.

“Communication helps resolve the tension between a species' need to compete and a desire to cooperate".

Story here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Floppy-footed Gibbons Help Us Understand How Early Humans May Have Walked

gibbon footThe human foot is a miracle of evolution. We can keep striding for miles on our well-sprung feet. There is nothing else like them, not even amongst our closest living relatives. According to Evie Vereecke, from the University of Liverpool, the modern human foot first appeared about 1.8 million years ago, but our ape-like ancestors probably took to walking several million years earlier, even though their feet were more 'floppy' and ape like than ours.

Vereecke explains that modern ape feet have a flexible joint midway along the foot (we retain this joint, but have lost the flexibility), which made her wonder how well our predecessors may have walked on two feet. Lacking a time machine, Vereecke and Peter Aerts from the University of Antwerp decided to look at the flexible feet of modern gibbons to find out more about how they walk.

But working with gibbons is notoriously hard. 'You can't touch them and you can't work with them in the lab' says Vereecke. Fortunately she and Aerts had access to a troop of the semi-wild apes just down the road at Belgium's Wild Animal Park of Planckendael. Having set up her camera outside the animals' enclosure at foot height, Vereecke simply had to sit and wait for the animals to walk past, hoping that the camera would capture a few footfalls. Eventually after several weeks of patience, Vereecke had enough film footage to begin digitalising the animals' foot movements and build a computer model to find out how they walk.

The first thing that Vereecke noticed was that the animals don't hit the ground with their heels at the start of a stride. They move more like ballerinas, landing on their toes before the heel touches the ground. Analysing the gibbon foot computer model, Vereecke realised that by landing on the toes first they were stretching the toes' tendons and storing energy in them. According to Vereecke, this is quite different from the way that energy is stored in the human foot. She explains that our feet are built like sprung arches spanned by an elastic tendon (aponeurosis) along the sole of the foot. When we put weight on our feet, the arch stretches the aponeurosis, storing elastic energy to power the push off at the end of a stride.

And there were more differences between the gibbon and human walking patterns at the end of a stride. Instead of lifting the foot as one long lever, the gibbon lifted its heel first, effectively bending the foot in two to form an upward-turned arch, stretching the toes' tendons even further and storing more elastic energy ready for release as the foot eventually pushes off.

So what does all this mean for our ape-like ancestors? Vereecke is keen to point out that gibbons are not a perfect model for the ways that early humans may have walked; there are marked differences between modern gibbons and the fossilised remains of early humans. However, modern gibbons live in trees and walk on two flexible feet, just like our ancestors. Her work shows that it is possible to walk quite efficiently with a relatively bendy foot and that our ancestors may have used energy storage mechanisms that are similar to ours, despite their dramatically different foot shapes.

Story here.

Long-lost 'Furby-like' Primate Discovered In Indonesia

pygmy tarsierA team led by a Texas A&M University anthropologist has discovered a group of primates not seen alive in 85 years. The pygmy tarsiers, furry Furby-like, or gremlin-looking, creatures about the size of a small mouse and weighing less than two ounces, have not been observed since they were last collected for a museum in 1921.

Several scientists believed they were extinct until two Indonesian scientists trapping rats in the highlands of Sulawesi accidentally trapped and killed a pygmy tarsier in 2000.

Sharon Gursky-Doyen, working with one of her graduate students, Nanda Grow, and a team of locals trapped three of the nocturnal creatures in Indonesia in late August. The pygmy tarsiers possess fingers with claws instead of nails, which Gursky-Doyen says is a distinguishing feature of this species, and distinguishes them from nearly all other primates which have nails and not claws. The claws may be an adaptation to the mossy environment, she believes.

Over a two-month period, two males and one female were trapped on Mt. Rore Katimbo in Lore Lindu National Park in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The scientists used approximately 276 mist nets to capture the creatures, then attached radio collars to their necks so they could track their movements.

The moist mountainous terrain at heights of 7,000 to 8,000 above sea level proved tricky to navigate, and the nocturnal nature of the animals added another element of danger.

“It was always foggy and wet, so you had to be careful not to get hypothermia,” Gursky-Doyen says. “And the moss was so slippery, we were always struggling to stay upright.”

Gursky-Doyen, a physical anthropologist, specializes in the behavioral ecology and conservation of the non-human primates. In addition to research on the spectral tarsier, Gursky-Doyen’s earlier research focuses on the unusual infant caretaking behaviors exhibited by this primate, as well as the relationship between behavior and lunar cycles. Her most recent research project involves the relationship between group living and ecological pressures such as predation and the temporal distribution of resources.

Gursky-Doyen, who began work on her dissertation in 1993 in the central part of Indonesia , says she is eager to return to gain more first-hand knowledge about the creatures and work toward their preservation. She would like her graduate student, Nanda Grow, whom she calls “a mountain goat, because she was a stronger walker than the other field assistants,” to return to the site to complete here dissertation research.

Gursky-Doyen and Grow are drafting a paper that represents the first behavioral and ecological data on this living population of pygmy tarsiers.

Whatever else happens, Gursky-Doyen says she hopes the tarsiers won’t slip back into oblivion. Hopefully, she says, now that the Indonesian government knows where this species resides, it will protect them from the encroaching development that is occurring in the range of this species within Lore Lindu National Park.

“There are still primates waiting to be discovered in Indonesia,” she says. “Not all have been seen, heard and described.”

Gursky-Doyen’s research was funded by National Geographic Society, Conservation International Primate Action Fund, Primate Conservation Incorporated and Texas A&M University .

Story here.

Chimp Rescued From Congo Soldiers

mapina chimpLess than ten months old, a baby chimpanzee named Mapima was being mistreated by Congolese army soldiers until she was rescued last week by the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a post on the official blog of nearby Virunga National Park.

Goma is at the heart the current bloody conflict between rebels and the army that threatens Virunga's apes.

ICCN veterinarian Arthur Kalonji said he had gotten word of the baby chimpanzee from "a friend of a friend of a friend," who said an expat had bought the chimp—technically an illegal act—to save her from the soldiers, the blog said.

Mapima is resting and receiving veterinary care in Virunga before flying to a Congolese chimp sanctuary. Despite a few sores on her legs and likely stress, Mapima seems to be doing fine, according to her temporary caretakers.

Virunga officials say that soldiers often take young chimps as pets. In August, officials had recovered another baby chimp being held by the Congolese army.

Story here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fire at Snake Farm Kills Two Baboons

snake farm fireWild animals were just one of the challenges firefighters faced when they arrived at the historic roadside zoo - the Snake Farm - that caught fire late Friday night.

"We were fortunate that it was in the habitat out back and not the main structure where the poisonous snakes are," Patrick O'Connell of New Braunfels Fire Department said.

While the snakes were safe inside, police officers and game wardens armed with tranquilizers were on the lookout for some of the park's unaccounted for primates. "We don't let our people in until we make sure we're not going to hurt them [the animals] and more importantly they're not going to hurt us," O'Connell said.

Once the flames were extinguished workers began checking on all of the different birds, monkeys, and alligators that call the zoo home.

Exotic Animal World spokesperson, Marissa Atamas said the baboons were found, not far from where the fire started. "Our beloved baboons, Mindy and Mufasa expired. Mindy expired in the fire and then Mufasa later on," she said.

Investigators said a lamp used to keep the animals warm during the winter was the cause of the fire and the wind quickly spread the flames.

The Exotic Animal World is a sanctuary for dozens of species. It has just been designated a nonprofit group and is in the process of transitioning into the Comal County River Zoo. New habitats were under construction but unfortunately they weren't completed in time.

For the baboons, the Snake Farm was a retirement home of sorts. Mufasa was a circus performer, but as he matured he was no longer needed.

"This was his haven and his home. Mindy was from a lab and she was donated as well and she was Mufasa's buddy and playmate," Atamas said.

Three tortoises also died in the fire. Atamas said it's amazing that more animals weren't hurt in the fire.

Story here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Moment Of Orangutan Janitor Zen...

A 49 year-old Orangutan at a Japanese zoo has developed a taste for house cleaning. Visitors to the Tama zoo in Tokyo watch as Gypsy the orangutan methodically cleans her enclosure. It is thought she learnt how to house clean by imitating the zoo's cleaners.

From here.

Stolen Monkeys Found After Tip-Off

monkeys stolenTwo rare monkeys stolen from an Oxfordshire wildlife park have been found safe and well.

The pair of female squirrel monkeys, Deana and Stripe, were taken from their enclosure at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, near Burford, on Monday.

However, they were found in a box nearby after an anonymous caller contacted the park on Wednesday night.

Curator Jamie Craig said the animals would soon be reunited with the other monkeys later on Thursday.

Mr Craig told the BBC News website he received an anonymous call on Wednesday afternoon from a man who claimed to have bought both of the monkeys for £400.

"He said he did not know they were stolen before hearing all the coverage in the media and said he wanted to hand them back," Mr Craig said.

"So he arranged to drop them off in a box at a disused warehouse near Filkins and we picked them up last night at about 1930 GMT.

"They were a bit cold and a bit shaken up but otherwise seemed fine."

"We don't know if this man was involved in the theft or not, but he asked for a reward and obviously we told him we would not be paying anything to have them returned."

Mr Craig said the details of what happened have been passed onto Thames Valley Police, who are investigating the incident.

Squirrel monkeys are classed as an endangered species and there is a Europe-wide breeding programme to boost numbers.

Story here.

Vandals Let Chimps Escape, Bite Woman

chimp escapesDog-bites-man took a new twist this week when Carbon County emergency dispatchers received a call that a chimpanzee had bit a woman.

The incident began late Monday afternoon with a call to police that a chimp was running down a road between Roberts and Boyd. Barely half an hour later, a second call came in, reporting that a chimpanzee had bit a woman.

Carbon County Sheriff's Deputy Jon Croft, who was called to the scene, declined to comment saying the incident is under investigation. He did confirm the chimpanzee is currently under quarantine with a second chimp at the owner's residence between near Roberts.

The owner, Jeanne Rizzotto, is a real estate agent who has raised the two chimpanzees like her children. She said the escape was the result of vandalism.
"Someone cut my locks and let them out in the highway," she said.

Rizzotto said law enforcement is currently reviewing video tape taken by the security cameras she has on site. The chimps live in a 7,000-square-foot enclosure that includes a 2,800-square-foot indoor facility connecting into Rizzotto's home from a breezeway. Both have their own beds and wear pajamas. One can dress himself and is toilet-trained.

Rizzotto denied that either of the chimps - Connor and Kramer are both roughly six years old and weigh about 75 pounds - had bitten anyone. The victim, however, was taken to Beartooth Hospital in Red Lodge for treatment, according to dispatchers.

Carbon County Attorney Bob Eddleman said this is not the first time there has been talk of one of the chimps biting someone. But, it is the first time he's aware that has been reported to law enforcement.

Rizzotto said she was alerted to the chimps' escape after returning home from Red Lodge. Her son retrieved one chimp from a field nearby and they discovered the other at a neighbor's residence. She said , the officer pointed a gun at the chimp, but Rizzotto stepped in front of the gun, picked up the chimp and returned to her property.

Don "Doc" Woerner of the Laurel East Pet Hospital serves as a veterinarian for ZooMontana. He described the situation as "almost unbelievable." He said a chimp bite could be compared to a human bite for its potential to transmit disease.

"It's about the worst bite you can get, much worse than a dog," he said.

The chimps are currently being quarantined for rabies, which is unlikely, he said. But there is a potential for herpes or other infections. He believed the chimps had limited veterinary care in the past.

Dr. Eric Klaphake, who also serves as a veterinarian for ZooMontana, said he advised a tetanus shot for the victim and a broad spectrum of antibiotics to address the varied bacteria that could be present.

Klaphake, who has worked with chimps and other primates at several large zoos, said chimps have a tendency to do damage when they want to.

"They literally chew fingers off, chew noses off and attack the genitalia in men," he said.

They also have a tendency to retaliate, he said. While working at the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee, he darted the resident chimps to prepare them for their annual physical exams. Two years after he had left the zoo, he returned as a visitor. Even in the midst of a group of other visitors, the male chimps immediately picked him out, came up to the fence and made threatening gestures, he said.

"Of all of the animals I've had under my care, my worst nightmares are about chimps getting loose," he said. "I'd almost rather face a tiger or polar bear."

Story here.

San Diego Zoo: See Frank The Baby Gorilla And Ape Webcam

frank gorillaThe San Diego Zoo’s Great Ape Awareness Days start Thursday, Nov. 13 and run through Sunday. It’s a chance for guests to find out more about the zoo’s three species of great apes: gorillas, orangutans and bonobos, the most endangered. But the real draw is Frank, the baby gorilla who was born at the zoo on Sept. 4, 2008.

View Ape Cam Here.
Story here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gibraltar Government Sanctioned Ape Killings Confirmed

barbary apesThe Opposition states that it has been able to independently confirm that the GSD Government has actioned its policy of killing apes. On the matter it said the killings are evidence of the GSD Government’s failure to properly manage the ape population and confirms the statements made by Helen Thirlway of the IPPL.

"The public will now be in a better position to understand exactly the meaning of the refusal by the GSD Minister for the Environment, Mr Britto, to confirm or deny in Parliament or to the media whether he had authorised the further killing of apes.

"Given that the IPPL had actually found a location for the apes to be transferred to, it is clear that the killings have gone ahead not “as a last resort” as the Minister had told Parliament would be the case. There was clearly an alternative to the killing, namely taking up the IPPL’s offer for the relocation of the apes which also would provide for future ape management solutions. The killings have taken place only because Government would not accept the IPPL’s requirements for the relocation and not as a “last resort”. The statement by Minister Britto in Parliament has therefore clearly had the effect of misleading the Parliament and - in the government's later references to it - the media and the public.

"To make matters worse, the killings have not in any way cured the problems being experienced by tenants of areas where the apes are roaming after being attracted by open rubbish dumps. These continue not to be enclosed and the government’s failure to take action as simple as enclosing the rubbish dumps demonstrates that the GSD are just unable to act quickly even in providing simple and necessary solutions to the everyday problems being experienced by people.

"In the circumstances the Government’s unprecedented fury in its attack on Ms Thirlway is no more than an attempt to create a smokescreen to hide Mr Britto’s continued killing of mammals that are most closely identified with Gibraltar. This is especially the case when we use the image of the apes to promote Gibraltar as the government did this very weekend at the Lord Mayors Parade in London, whilst secretly killing the apes on the Rock."

Shadow Minister for the Environment, Fabian Picardo, said:

“I find the statement of the Government to be entirely in keeping with the GSD approach to avoid accepting that it has acted in an unacceptable manner as a result of its own inability to put in place a proper ape management programme. As for the suggestion that anything that Helen Thirlway has said might be libellous, that simply is further bluster on the part of the Government. Ms Thirlway is entirely entitled to her opinion as to the manner in which the GSD acts to protect the interest of wealthy property developers and nothing that she has said is in our opinion defamatory or libellous. I am sure that Helen Thirlway will have no difficulty whatsoever defeating any libel action which the Government might foolishly decide to commence against her. Ms Thirlway should nevertheless have little fear of such empty threats from the Government and should continue her sterling work in defence of Gibraltar’s apes. We are committed to working with both our home grown (and world class) experts in their field and with the IPPL in putting in place an effective ape management programme that does away with the need to kill any more apes. Ironically, Mr Britto has issued his press release attempting to intimidate Helen Thirlway into silence in the same week that he has said that – despite twelve and a half years of GSD Government in which to act - Gibraltar’s tourist product needs to be improved. Perhaps Mr Britto should start that work by thinking of alternatives to killing more of our apes which are recognised as our greatest tourist attraction. Until then, this episode will go down in our history as one of the most shameful instances of a government trying to rely on a claim of “national interest” to avoid its own shortcomings.”

Story here.

Two Monkeys Stolen From Wildlife Park

deanna monkeyTwo rare monkeys have been stolen from an Oxfordshire wildlife park.

The pair of female squirrel monkey's Deana and Stripe, were taken from their enclosure at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, near Burford, on Monday.

They are classed as an endangered species and there is a Europe-wide breeding programme to boost numbers.

Police are worried the animals could be "severely traumatised" by their ordeal and have warned people not to approach them in case they bite.

PC Simon Towers, Thames Valley Police Wildlife Officer, said he thinks the animals may have been stolen to order for an illegal collector.

"This is a highly unusual crime," he said. "There has not been a similar theft of a monkey nationally since 2006.

"Squirrel monkeys are not the most valuable and people do have them in private collections - but this was a very well planned and executed theft."

He added: "We are very concerned about their welfare - they have a highly specialised diet and would be severely traumatised by the experience so we need to recover them as soon as possible.

"I would also like to advise the public that while they might be cute-looking animals, they are wild, may be frightened and could easily bite someone."

Police have asked for anyone who saw any suspicious vehicles in the area of the park on Monday night to contact them.

Story here.

Stem Cells From Monkey Teeth Can Stimulate Growth And Generation Of Brain Cells

Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have discovered dental pulp stem cells can stimulate growth and generation of several types of neural cells. Findings from this study, available in the October issue of the journal Stem Cells, suggest dental pulp stem cells show promise for use in cell therapy and regenerative medicine, particularly therapies associated with the central nervous system.

Dental stem cells are adult stem cells, one of the two major divisions of stem cell research. Adult stem cells have the ability to regenerate many different types of cells, promising great therapeutic potential, especially for diseases such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. Already, dental pulp stem cells have been used for regeneration of dental and craniofacial cells.

Yerkes researcher Anthony Chan, DVM, PhD, and his team of researchers placed dental pulp stem cells from the tooth of a rhesus macaque into the hippocampal areas of mice. The dental pulp stem cells stimulated growth of new neural cells, and many of these formed neurons. “By showing dental pulp stem cells are capable of stimulating growth of neurons, our study demonstrates the specific therapeutic potential of dental pulp stem cells and the broader potential for adult stem cells,” says Chan, who also is assistant professor of human genetics in Emory School of Medicine.

Because dental pulp stem cells can be isolated from anyone at any age during a visit to the dentist, Chan is interested in the possibility of dental pulp stem cell banking. “Being able to use your own stem cells for therapy would greatly decrease the risk of cell rejection that we now experience in transplant medicine,” says Chan.

Chan and his research team next plan to determine if dental pulp stem cells from monkeys with Huntington’s disease can enhance brain cell development in the same way dental pulp stem cells from healthy monkeys do.

Story here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Zoo Gorilla 'Doing Well' After Colonoscopy

gigi colonoscopy gorillaGigi, Zoo New England’s western lowland gorilla, was reported to be doing well Thursday after she was put under anesthesia so the zoo’s veterinary staff could examine her, local station WCVB reported.

Last week, zookeepers reported that Gigi was having digestive problems. She was treated, but did not respond as well as the veterinary staff would have liked. The anesthesia was required so a more thorough examination, including a colonoscopy, could be done.

“We did not find anything abnormal. While the colonoscopy looked normal, we did take several biopsies. We expect to have the test results back within one to two weeks,” said Dr. Hayley Weston Murphy, Zoo New England Director of Veterinary Services.

“We will continue to closely monitor Gigi.”

Gigi, 36, is the oldest of the gorillas at the Franklin Park Zoo. While female gorillas in captivity can live into their mid-40s, the typical lifespan is between 35 and 40 years old.

Gigi has been a zoo resident since 1980. She is the mother of two male gorillas -- Quito, who was born in 1981, and Kubandu, who was born in 1982.

Kubandu died of complications from anesthesia during an annual physical exam at the zoo in 1997.

Gigi is expected to join the zoo’s other gorillas on exhibit in the near future.

Story here.

Scientists Compare Human, Chimp Genetics

chimpU.S. and British scientists have ended the largest study of human and chimpanzee genetic differences, identifying areas duplicated or lost during evolution.

Researchers said the study is the first to compare many human and chimpanzee genomes in the same manner.

The scientists found particular types of genes -- such as those involved in the inflammatory response and in control of cell proliferation -- are more commonly involved in gain or loss. They said their findings also provide new evidence for a gene that's been associated with susceptibility to infection by the human immunodeficiency virus.

"This is the first study of this scale, comparing directly the genomes of many humans and chimpanzees," said Richard Redon of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Britain. "By looking at only one 'reference' sequence for human or chimpanzee, as has been done previously, it is not possible to tell which differences occur only among individual chimpanzees or humans and which are differences between the two species. This is our first view of those two important legacies of evolution."

The study that also included scientists from Arizona State University, Brigham & Women's Hospital, the University of Washington, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Harvard Medical School appears in the journal Genome Research.

Story here.

EU Considers Ban On Great Ape Experiments

The European Commission has proposed that European Union nations ban the use of great apes for scientific experiments and restrict the use of animals for research and testing.

"It is absolutely important to steer away from testing on animals," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement.

"Scientific research must focus on finding alternative methods to animal testing, but where alternatives are not available the situation of animals still used in experiments must be improved," he added.

Under the proposed EU law, great apes could be used only when the research would help the survival of the species or help fight the outbreak of a disease life-threatening to humans.

EU countries have not conducted experiments on great apes for nine years, unlike the United States and Gabon, an official working for Mr Dimas said.

Apart from great apes, some 12 million animals are used in experiments throughout the EU each year, according to the bloc's executive arm.

The commission said that an outright ban on the use of animals for safety testing and research was not possible, but proposed that "their use must be fully justifiable and the expected benefits must outweigh the harm caused to the animals."

"The proposal would also ensure that animals receive suitable care and treatment such as appropriately sized cages and an environment adapted to each species. These provisions would be continually monitored," the commission said.

Story here.

Monkeys Cause Boys Death

With an estimated 3,000 monkeys at large in certain residential areas of the Uttar Pradesh capital, local authorities are chasing the animals on a war footing, particularly after a child lost his life to a marauding simian pack.

The Mayawati government realised the need for more concerted action only after a three-year-old boy fell off his terrace while desperately attempting to save himself from being mauled by a pack of monkeys last Saturday. State forest minister Fateh Bahadur Singh then promptly got his officials into action.

After chasing monkeys for nearly 48 hours, they had their first success on Tuesday afternoon when they trapped two monkeys.

"We have managed to trap two monkeys today and hope to get more over the next few days," Lucknow's divisional forest conservator CP Goel said.

Asked why his team of a dozen professional monkey catchers were unable to achieve more success, Goel pleaded: "Please don't go by just numbers as monkey catching involves a strategy whereby we target the leader of each pack; once you have got the leader the rest of the pack disperses or runs for safety."

According to him, "the trapped animals will be let loose in some nearby forest from where they would not be able to return to urban habitation."

Goel admitted that the menace had acquired alarming proportions and needed to be tackled on a war footing. "So far the task of monkey catching was entrusted to the municipal corporation, but now that the menace had grown manifold, the administration has decided to hand over the responsibility to the forest and wildlife department."

Meanwhile, Islamuddin, father of the three-year-old Mohammad Arbaz who died, has appealed to the district authorities "to save lives of citizens from unbridled infiltration by monkeys into several residential localities". His six-year-old daughter is still in hospital, though she managed to wriggle out of the clutches of the monkeys on the same day her brother lost his life.

"My children were playing on the terrace of our house in the old city when they were surrounded by a pack of monkeys. The children's screams drew other members of the family as well as some neighbours to their help. While my daughter managed to run down the steps even as she was bitten and bruised by the monkeys, a terrorized three-year-old Arbaz got cornered by the attack and fell off the terrace and succumbed to his injuries," Islamuddin said.

Reports said that the monkey menace had been growing in Lucknow for quite some time, but no concrete action was taken by the authorities to contain it. All that the municipal authorities did was to ask their only listed monkey catcher Harbans Singh to trap the animals.

Singh on his part claims: "Earlier I have trapped as many as about 500 monkeys, but my bill for more than 100 monkeys was pending for more than two years. So how do you expect me to do anything?"

Now, with the forest department having taken command of the situation, an in-house team of professionals was detailed to bring an end to the plight of the harried citizens.

Story here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Male Gorilla Dies At Little Rock Zoo

jj gorillaJJ, a male silverback western lowland gorilla at the Little Rock Zoo, has died at the age of 21 of a suspected heart condition.

The zoo says JJ, short for Jungle Jack, died Sunday morning in his exhibit. Earlier this year, an echocardiogram revealed that JJ was living with congestive heart failure, a disease common in adult male great apes. Zoo veterinarian Marilynn Baeyens says the gorilla's heart was only working at 10% of capacity.

Baeyens says she suspects JJ's heart condition led to his death, and that a necropsy will be conducted.

JJ was born at the Columbus Zoo and had been living at the Little Rock Zoo for the past 15 years.

Story here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Orangutan Djambe Died Of A Heart Attack

djambe orangutanColchester Zoo's female Orangutan Djambe died of a heart attack, it has emerged.

The zoo has received the initial post mortem results following the death of the popular primate on October 25.

The results indicated that she suffered a heart attack following the rupture of a large ovarian cyst.

A spokeswoman for the zoo said: “Djambe and her companion, Rajang were moved to the new Orangutan Forest enclosure however, during a medical examination at the time of the move an irregular shaped mass, now known to be an ovarian cyst, was found on the right side of Djambe's abdomen.

“She was assessed by the zoo's veterinary team on the 24th October and a second anaesthesia to examine the mass in her abdomen was planned.

“It is now clear from the post mortem it is highly unlikely that this surgery could have been successful. A plaque at the new enclosure is planned to remember Colchester Zoo's very special female Orangutan.”

Story here.

Marmoset Baby Abandoned By Mother

marmoset bbabyThe baby, which is no bigger than a human thumb, was abandoned by its mother.

It is being reared by staff at Knowsley safari park, the second time in a few months keepers have had to step in to save one of the tiny monkeys.

Female marmosets only have two teats and enough milk for a pair of babies, so when triplets are born, one is usually abandoned.

Earlier this year, the same parents had another set of triplets and baby Elliott had to be rescued.

Now, both Elliott and the newborn monkey are being cared for by park photographer Penny Boyd in her home.

Penny said: “It will be great for Elliott to have a brother to play with.”

Story here.

Judge Rejects Charges In Monkey's Scalding Death

A Monroe animal rights activist won't be allowed to file criminal animal cruelty charges against three men in the scalding death of a monkey at an Everett animal testing lab.

Everett District Court Judge Roger Fisher ruled Wednesday there isn't enough evidence to support allegations that lab workers committed a crime when they failed to remove a cynomolgus monkey from her cage before sterilizing the enclosure.

Prosecutors from the city of Everett and Snohomish County also opted not to file charges.

"I believe the facts as presented do not rise to the level of a citizen's complaint," Fisher said.

Susan Michaels, co-founder of Pasado's Safe Haven, asked Fisher's permission to bring a private criminal prosecution against three former workers at SNBL USA. She worried the case would slip through the cracks if she didn't pursue criminal charges herself, her attorney, Adam Karp, said.

The Bellingham attorney, who specializes in animal law, petitioned to file misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. He alleged that the men were criminally reckless when they caused the monkey's death.

A former lab manager said the men couldn't miss seeing the monkey in her cage unless they were "intoxicated" or "really reckless," Karp said. There is no evidence that they intended to kill the animal, he said.

Michaels was concerned that the one-year statute of limitations to file a misdemeanor charge would run out before prosecutors made a decision, Karp said. The monkey died in November 2007.

Fisher initially delayed making a decision after learning that Everett police were investigating. Police had received the complaint in February. Fisher ordered county prosecutors to follow up with Everett's city prosecutor and police.

Snohomish County chief criminal deputy prosecutor Joan Cavagnaro on Wednesday told the judge her office was declining to file charges. There isn't a sufficient basis to prove the men intended to kill the monkey or even that they knowingly and recklessly caused the animal's death, she said.

Everett city attorney Mike Fisher reached a similar conclusion.

"I can't create a crime out of a bad outcome," he said.

He called the animal's death a tragic mistake likely attributed to poor job performance -- not criminal behavior that could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

John Wolfe, an attorney for SNBL, also was at Wednesday's hearing. SNBL filed an objection to the petition on the grounds that the court rule allowing for private prosecution usurps the powers of an elected prosecutor and gives improper power to the judicial branch.

Fisher said he wasn't ruling that the bringing a private prosecution is unconstitutional. He noted that a case focusing on that question is pending before the state Supreme Court. Fisher said he was concerned, however, about being asked to substitute his judgment for the judgment of the prosecutors.

"I'd rather see that court rule utilized where there haven't been diligent efforts on the part of police and the prosecutor's office," he said.

Fisher said he was convinced prosecutors thoroughly reviewed the police investigation into the monkey's death.

The citizen's complaint process is expected to be reviewed by the state's high court next year. In that case, Karp asked the court to overturn a Spokane judge's ruling that disallowed the private prosecution of two sheriff's deputies after their use of stun guns on an escaped calf killed the animal.

The judge in Spokane determined a citizen's filing of criminal complaints violates the separation of powers between branches of government.

Karp said Michaels will not appeal Wednesday's ruling with the Snohomish County Superior Court. Instead, Karp said he will be looking at possible civil remedies.

Story here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Congo Rebels Seize Gorilla Sanctuary, Government Camp

Gorilla congoRebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo were reported Sunday to have seized a national park in the east of the country that is home to more than a quarter of the world's surviving mountain gorillas.

"Rebels loyal to dissident general Laurent Nkunda took over the headquarters of the Virunga National Park and the sector where the gorillas are to be found after heavy fighting with the DRC army in the early hours of the morning," a statement received by AFP from the park said.

"More than 50 rangers were forced to flee through the forest."

"The taking of our headquarters at Rumangabo by the rebels is unprecedented in all these years of fighting," said park director Emmanuel de Merode in the statement.

The park, which has a rich variety of animal life and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to 200 of the world's surviving 700 mountain gorillas. It lies on the border with Rwanda and Uganda.

Fighters engaged in the fighting in the Nord-Kivu province regularly take refuge in the park, killing wild animals and chopping down trees for fuel.

"The military camp of Rumangabo is again under the control of the CNDP, as are the localities of Kalengera and Rugari," a statement from Nkunda's rebel National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) said earlier.

The camp is an important army base in Nord-Kivu, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the provincial capital Goma.

"The CNDP took Rumangabo after fighting Sunday morning and clashes are continuing at Rugari," a spokesman for the UN's DRC peacekeeping mission MONUC told AFP. There were no details of any casualties.

An AFP correspondent in Rugari, 10 kilometres (six miles) south of Rumangabo on the road to Goma, reported that heavy artillery exchanges were continuing.

The rebels said they had taken the Rumangabo camp -- which they captured earlier this month and later abandoned at MONUC's request -- as a "riposte" against the "generalised attacks on all fronts by the government coalition."

The said the coalition was made up of government troops, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group composed of Hutu former militia fighters who fled Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, and local militias.

For its part, the government charged in a statement that "two foreign battalions" backed up the rebels in the attack on Rumangabo.

The DRC government says the CNDP, led by a renegade DRCongo general Laurent Nkunda, a Tutsi, has military backing from neigbouring Rwanda.

Fighting that broke out between the two sides in August -- violating a January ceasefire treaty -- has displaced some 200,000 people, the United Nations food aid agency warned Friday.

The latest developments follow a recent call by the UN Security Council for a ceasefire in the region, a theatre of conflict since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Story here.