Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Primate Expert Called Back From Africa To Help Capture Polk County Monkeys

escaped monkeysFifteen escaped monkeys are still on the loose in Polk County Wednesday morning, even after an extensive search.

The African patas monkeys escaped from a safari animal park in Lakeland last week. Even a state wildlife officer and private trappers have not been able to capture them.

The Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa has now called its foremost primate expert back from Africa to help in the search.

Story here.

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Great Ape Diseases Are Threat To Humans

great ape diseasesHumans may be more vulnerable to catching diseases from great apes chimpanzees and gorillas as these species are the closest relatives to us, says research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, today (Wednesday 30 April 2008).

Researchers from the Universities of California and Sheffield show that humans are almost four times more likely to share infectious diseases and viruses with chimpanzees which last shared a common ancestor with humans around 8 million years ago, than with a colobus monkey, which diverged from humans over 34 million years ago.

Emerging infectious diseases are increasingly impacting human health and species conservation. Many of the most deadly diseases known to mankind have originated among wild animals, for example AIDS and Ebola and these new findings could prove critical in predicting future trends of emerging diseases.

Dr Jonathan Davies, from the University of California and co-author of the study, said: "Infectious diseases crossing species barriers pose a huge and increasing threat to human health and the conservation of wild species. Our study helps us to understand where and how diseases jump between species, and provides a critical first step in predicting future outbreaks."

Story here.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Scientist Warns Of Ape Human Hybrid

chimp human hybridA leading scientist has warned a new species of "humanzee," created from breeding apes with humans, could become a reality unless the government acts to stop scientists experimenting.

In an interview with The Scotsman, Dr Calum MacKellar, director of research at the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, warned the controversial draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill did not prevent human sperm being inseminated into animals.

He said if a female chimpanzee was inseminated with human sperm the two species would be closely enough related that a hybrid could be born.

He said scientists could possibly try to develop the new species to fill the demand for organ donors.

Leading scientists say there is no reason why the two species could not breed, although they question why anyone would want to try such a technique.

Other hybrid species already created include crossed tigers and lions and sheep and goats.

Dr MacKellar said he feared the consequences if scientists made a concerted effort to cross humans with chimpanzees. He said: "Nobody knows what they would get if they tried hard enough. The insemination of animals with human sperm should be prohibited.

"The Human Fertilisation and Embryo Bill prohibits the placement of animal sperm into a woman The reverse is not prohibited. It's not even mentioned. This should not be the case."

He said if the process was not banned, scientists would be "very likely" to try it, and it would be likely humans and chimps could successfully reproduce.

"If you put human sperm into a frog it would probably create an embryo, but it probably wouldn't go very far," he said.

"But if you do it with a non-human primate it's not beyond the realms of possibility that it could be born alive."

Dr MacKellar said the resulting creature could raise ethical dilemmas, such as whether it would be treated as human or animal, and what rights it would have.

"If it was never able to be self-aware or self-conscious it would probably be considered an animal," he said. "However, if there was a possibility of humanzees developing a conscience, you have a far more difficult dilemma on your hands."

He said fascination would be enough of a motive for scientists to try crossing the two species.

But he also said there was a small chance of scientists using the method to "humanise" organs for transplant into humans. "There's a desperate need for organs. One of the solutions that has been looked at is using animal organs, but because there's a very serious risk of rejection using animal organs in humans they are already trying to humanise these organs.

"If they could create these humanzees who are substantially human but are not considered as humans in law , we could have a large provision of organs."

He wrote to the Department of Health to ask that the gap in the draft legislation be addressed.

The department confirmed that the bill "does not cover the artificial insemination of an animal with human sperm".

It said: "Owing to the significant differences between human and animal genomes, they are incompatible and the development of a foetus or progeny is impossible.

"Therefore such activity would have no rational scientific justification, as there would be no measurable outcome."

Dr MacKellar disagrees. He said: "The chromosomal difference between a goat and a sheep is greater than between humans and chimpanzees."

Professor Bob Millar, director of the Medical Research Council Human Reproductive Sciences Unit, based in Edinburgh, agreed viable offspring would be possible. He said: "Donkeys can mate with horses and create infertile offspring; maybe that could happen with chimpanzees."

But he said he would oppose any such attempt. "It's unnecessary and ridiculous and no serious scientist would consider such a thing. Ethically, it's not appropriate.

"It's also completely impractical. Chimps would never be a source of organs for humans because of the viruses they carry and the low numbers."

Professor Hugh McLachlan, professor of applied philosophy at Glasgow Caledonian University's School of Law and Applied Sciences, said although the idea was "troublesome", he could see no ethical objections to the creation of humanzees.

"Any species came to be what it is now because of all sorts of interaction in the past," he said.

"If it turns out in the future there was fertilisation between a human animal and a non-human animal, it's an idea that is troublesome, but in terms of what particular ethical principle is breached it's not clear to me.

"I share their squeamishness and unease, but I'm not sure that unease can be expressed in terms of an ethical principle."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "It's just not a problem. If you inseminate an animal with human sperm, scientifically nothing happens. The species barriers are too great."

Story here.

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Howler Monkey Undergoes Cataract Operation

monkey cataract operationNo one was certain how much Eli could see, but for all practical purposes the 10-year-old Hogle Zoo howler monkey was blind.

On Monday morning, a team of doctors set to work removing the cataracts from Eli's eyes, replacing his natural lenses with acrylic ones designed for human children. Since Eli can't follow an eye chart, his caretakers still won't be certain exactly how clear his vision will be. But early indications are he can see.

At the very least, the doctors say, he should regain enough of his sight that he will be able to make out the shapes of other monkeys, find his own food and enjoy a much happier life at the Salt Lake City animal park where he resides.

As is the case with humans, it's unclear why some monkeys suffer cataracts - a clouding and hardening of the protein that form the eye's lens. But advances in surgical optometry have made the replacement of the natural lens a relatively simple and common procedure for humans, dogs, cats and some farm animals.

And although far fewer such surgeries have been attempted on primates, Eye Care for Animals veterinarian Nicole MacLaren said that once the surgical draping was covering Eli's thick black fur on Monday, it was pretty much the same game.

"As soon as he's draped off, it's just an eyeball and you start concentrating on that," said MacLaren, who has done hundreds of similar surgeries on other
animals. Within an hour of the procedure, "the monkey was up running around and acting like he can see," MacLaren said.

Rather than subject Eli to tests that would require anesthesia, MacLaren said she and Hogle staff will probably keep close watch on his behavior to determine his visual acuity.

Eli's lenses, donated by Texas-based Alcon Surgical, should last the rest of his life. And since his natural lens was removed in the procedure, the cataracts can't grow back.

Since Eli didn't begin to suffer from the cataracts until he was 4 years old and has retained at least a small amount of vision for most of the time since, assisting surgeon Darcy Wolsey said the monkey shouldn't have too much trouble readjusting to his restored sight.

"He won't be reading the newspaper," the Salt Lake Eye Associates optometrist lamented. But after a few days of mild irritation, she said, Eli should be able to see significantly better than he could before.

Story here.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Orangutan Spotted Fishing With Sharpened Stick

orangutan fishing with spear
A male orangutan, clinging precariously to overhanging branches, flails the water with a pole, trying desperately to spear a passing fish.

It is the first time one has been seen using a tool to hunt.

The extraordinary image, a world exclusive, was taken in Borneo on the island of Kaja, where apes are rehabilitated into the wild after being rescued from zoos, private homes or even butchers' shops.

"Orang hutan" means "forest man" in one of Indonesia's many languages and our long-armed cousins do indeed show a remarkable ability to mimic our behaviour.

This individual had seen locals fishing with spears on the Gohong River.

Although the method required too much skill for him to master, he was later able to improvise by using the pole to catch fish already trapped in the locals' fishing lines.

The image is part of a series taken for a new book, The Thinkers Of The Jungle, which also includes the first photograph of an orangutan swimming.

Story here.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Farmer Kills Berserk Pet Monkey With A Rock

farmer kills monkeyA 59-year-old farmer was left with no choice but to bash his beloved pet monkey to death with a rock after the animal viciously attacked him at his house at Mile 37 Kuching-Serian Road on Wednesday.

The farmer had returned home around 4.30pm after tending his farm when he noticed that his pet monkey — who he had raised for the past six years — had escaped from its cage due to a faulty lock on the cage door.

Searching the entire house, he finally found the simian sitting on the roof of his house and decided to tempt it back down with a banana before eventually recapturing it.

Placing the fruit on the ground, the farmer stood next to it and called out to the monkey, which immediately scampered towards him.

However, instead of falling for the bait, the monkey went straight for its master and started biting and clawing the farmer’s left leg.

Startled, the farmer tried to shake off the attacking animal but only succeeded in agitating it further. The monkey switched its attention and attacked his left hand.

From there, the berserk beast began to savagely attack the farmer’s right arm and caused serious injuries.

Fortunately for the master, despite the blood and the pain, he was able to pick up a rock from the ground and smashed it against the animal’s head several times, and killing it.

Bleeding profusely from the attack, the old man nearly fainted at the scene and was rushed by family members to the Serian hospital.

Due to the seriousness of the injury to his right arm, the farmer was later transferred to the Sarawak General Hospital for further treatment and was admitted upon arriving around 10pm.

Story here.

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Mysterious Phone Tip Leads To Return Of Stolen Baby Monkey

monkey stolenSomewhat subdued by her ordeal, a rare baby monkey stolen from the Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John, N.B., this week was found safe and sound and was to be reunited with her family Friday morning.

April, a South American Callimico goeldii monkey abducted from her cage Tuesday night, was located by Saint John police early this morning after receiving a phone tip.

"I am exhausted, but I am so happy," said one of the zoo directors, Lynda Collrin. "She seems to be fine."

Collrin, a primatologist, said April has not yet been reunited with her mother or brother.

"We wanted to do this in the morning when they're feeding the other ones so we can get her in with them and so that it's kind of a natural thing."

Sgt. Don Cooper said police got a call around midnight Thursday from a man with "a low voice," who provided the exact location of the purloined primate. They found April shortly after behind a building near a gas station, in a plastic container with air slots cut into it. They speedily returned her to the zoo.

"Two police cars came with lights flashing and they hadn't touched her," said zoo employee Shirley MacAulay. "They didn't even know if she was alive or not. She was in a plastic tote and it was taped up."

Collrin explained that April's handlers knew to keep their handling to a minimum.

"We didn't pick her up," she said. "She was in a blue tote and you can't see in it and there wasn't much movement when she came in. So we opened the top and there she was sitting there. And we kind of tipped the tote up and she went into a crate."

April had a good meal, spent the night at Collrin's home, and was to be returned to the zoo's monkey enclosure Friday morning.

"She's a little quiet," Collrin said. "She's not bouncing around."

"We just want to get her in and get them reunited and let them settle down."

Police said a note was attached to the top of the tote box. It said the animal had been cared for and fed, although it also suggested the zoo increase security at its facilities.

Story here.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chopper Pilot Spots Escaped Monkeys Under Tree In Polk

escaped monkeysLex Salisbury, president of Lowry Park Zoo, began his shift about dawn today driving the back roads of rural Polk County, eyes peeled for a dozen missing monkeys. By midmorning, he was still looking.

His primates had eluded capture for two – going on three – days and were nowhere to be seen. Of course, there was a huge area to be searched: sod and cattle ranches that sprawl over thousands of acres on the south side of Green Swamp that itself covers about 870 square miles.

Though the animals have not been captured, Judd Chapin, a helicopter pilot for News Channel 8, said about noon today that he saw roughly five of the monkeys under a tree. He said he is staying clear so he won't spook them.

The monkeys executed what might go down in Polk County history as the primate version of the "Great Escape."

The troupe of patas monkeys was rescued recently from Puerto Rico, Salisbury said, where they had been captured and were about to be euthanized. Salisbury intervened and brought all of them to a fledgling wildlife preserve north of Lakeland called Safari Wild. The monkeys arrived on Thursday. They escaped on Saturday.

Every single one of them.

Males, females, young and old. Together.

"They're very social," Salisbury said.

These monkeys are more suited to running through the grass than swinging from tree to tree and are said to be one of the fastest of primates. Salisbury said they have been clocked at almost 35 mph.

They hail from equatorial Africa and can live in a wide variety of climates, including, apparently, subtropical Florida; to be more specific, West Central Florida; and to be even more specific, just north of Lakeland.

The clever beasts shocked their keepers at Safari Wild, a 260-acre preserve in Polk County, by swimming an 8-foot-deep, 60-foot wide moat that surrounded their 1-acre island home and bolting into the wilderness.

"That amazed me," Salisbury said.

The daring escape was led by a female patas with a baby on her back. Others followed.

The reddish brown patas monkeys range in height from 2 to 3 feet and weigh 15 to 30 pounds. They are unarmed and not considered dangerous and carry no diseases. Keepers say all have microchips implanted for identification.

Being from Africa and all, where predators are around every corner, the monkeys have the savvy it takes to evade predators in Florida, Salisbury said. "These guys are pretty smart," he said. "They'll be fine."

The primates stayed on Safari Wild's property for a day or so after navigating the moat on Saturday, but then they climbed over a 28-foot fence and made it to freedom in the wilds of Polk County.

On Monday morning, someone spotted monkeys matching the description of the escapees about a mile from the preserve, Salisbury said. Keepers scoured the area all day Monday but found nothing. The monkey hunt continued this morning.

Salisbury has a plan to capture them, although the plan could take a week or more. He plans to play on the monkeys' main weakness: their dependence on humans to feed them. Once the troupe is located, trappers will place bananas and sweet potatoes near where the escapees are holed up.

Once the monkeys get used to chow time at the same spot for a few days, a trap will be sprung, keepers said. A group capture is the hope.

Salisbury co-owns Safari Wild. He said he is lending his animal expertise to the wildlife preserve, which will include animals such as waterbuck, zebras and African cattle.

He said he hopes to bring other exotic wildlife to the park, including cheetahs, giraffes and possibly elephants. The scheduled opening of the park is 2009.

Some animals will be imported from other countries and some will be surplus animals taken from zoos and wildlife parks across the U.S. Others, like the patases, will be rescued critters.

Mark Wilson operates the Florida Teaching Zoo in Bushnell: Has 30 patases imported from Puerto Rico, says they're hard to catch, especially mass capture…

Although no primates call Florida their native home, several populations have adapted in the wild here, most notably the population that lives along the banks of the Silver River near Ocala.

The colony of rhesus monkeys, which has been described as the nation's only free-roaming population, did come under scrutiny in the 1980s when some of the colony's members spilled outside their jungle borders of the Silver Springs Attraction and began hassling people.

Biologists said that at its height, the Silver Springs rhesus population reached nearly 200. They were introduced into the woods in the 1930s as extras for the "Tarzan" movies that were filmed along the scenic river.

Some of the monkeys were trapped and removed. The population is a lot smaller now, and the Silver River monkeys have been behaving themselves.

A tiny island in the Homosassa River has a small population of spider monkeys thought to have been brought there by the original owner of what now is the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. Five monkeys live there.

Rhesus monkeys, which are natives of Asia, swarmed over Lois Key and Racoon Key in the Florida Keys until the late 1990s when they were removed. They were raised there by a company that bred laboratory animals. The monkeys thrived there for decades, until they started ravaging the environment and a judge ordered their removal.

Story here.

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Baby Monkey Stolen From Canadian Zoo 'Needs Its Mother'

monkey baby stolenA young callimico monkey named April is missing from the Cherry Brook Zoo in Saint John after someone jumped a fence, kicked in a door and stole her from an enclosure.

Zoo director Len Collrin said it appears whoever took the small, black primate, also known as a Goeldi's monkey, knew what they were doing.

"They walked by a Golden Lion tamarin and went into the third enclosure, let the monkeys out and actually locked two back in," he said in an interview Wednesday. "One was still running around in the back hallway and last year's baby was missing."

Collrin said the monkey is 12-inches (0.3 metres) tall and weighs less than a pound (0.45 kilograms), adding that it's a high-maintenance animal that requires a special diet and won't make a good house pet.

"They are small animals, they are very fragile and they have a special diet," said Lynda Collrin, director of zoo development.

"We have to order in a canned food with a certain protein ratio, and we have to bring in a special high-protein monkey biscuit."

She said if someone feeds the monkey grapes and citrus fruits, the baby could go into insulin shock.

Collrin said the young monkey needs to be with its family.

"The whole family unit takes care of the baby, even the juvenile brother takes the baby and carries it," she said.

Collrin said the parents and brother are upset.

"They are either hiding ... or come up to the fence and are doing a distress call."

It wasn't clear if more than one person was involved in the heist.

A hack saw was used to unsuccessfully cut through a padlock and a hasp, before the door to the monkey's enclosure was kicked in.

Story here.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Man In Trouble For Feeding Monkey Chili Peppers

monkey pepperA Clovis father is in trouble with police after Clovis Zoo officials say he and his two children threw chili peppers into several monkey cages.

Clovis police say 40-year-old Kenneth Scarborough along with his 9 and 15-year-olds threw jalapeno and habanero peppers into the spider monkey and lemur cages.

Zoo officials say the monkeys got a hold of the peppers and some of them ended up with red eyes and others got sick.

Scarborough and his two children are facing animal cruelty charges.

The children face juvenile probation, and Scarborough faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Story here.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Monkeys Escape From Tampa Wildlife Facility

monkeys escapeA troupe of African monkeys are on the loose after escaping from a remote wildlife facility north of Tampa.

Officials at Safari Wild say it may take more than a week to round up all the patas monkeys that ran away on Saturday.

The monkeys live on a one-acre island that is surrounded by an eight-foot-deep moat. Officials say one female monkey with a baby on her back swam across the moat Saturday, and the other monkeys followed.

Officials say the reddish-brown monkeys are not dangerous and are used to being fed by humans, which may make them easier to catch.

Story here.

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Deformed And Abused Monkey Gets Second Chance At Life

joey the monkeyAn abused monkey left severely deformed after ten years in a 2m cage has been saved.

Joey, 11, was hunched and unable to stand after a decade in a windowless room with just a TV for company.

'It was probably the worst case I have seen of a physically and mentally disturbed animal,' said Matt Thomas from the Monkey Sanctuary in Looe, Cornwall.

'His bones hadn't formed properly. He can't climb.' Joey, dubbed the Hunchback of Notre Dame, was rescued last August from the north London flat.

'Since then, he has eaten well and had his first ever contact with other capuchin monkeys.

'He is shaky and will never be quite right,' added Jill Maltby from the sanctuary. 'It is wonderful to see him feeling the wind on his face.' The primate trade is barely regulated.

The sanctuary works to make keeping monkeys as pets illegal, which the government is as yet unwilling to do.

Story here.

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Second Stolen Monkey Returned To Owner, Suspect Wanted

stolen monkeysSt. Cloud police are searching for a man they say stole two marmoset monkeys off the porch of a St. Cloud home earlier this month.

Both monkeys -- Lola and Tequila -- have been returned to their owner and appear to be in good health.

Detectives think Kevin James Henault, 25, who does not have a permanent address but lives in the St. Cloud area, is responsible for taking the monkeys April 12 from a home on Ohio Avenue. Sgt. Boyd Graham said police are in the process of obtaining an arrest warrant for Henault on multiple counts of grand theft, dealing in stolen property and burglary.

Graham said police received a call about 4:40 a.m. April 12 from a person, who was residing at the Ohio Avenue home while the homeowner was out of town, and said the monkeys and their large case were missing.

The theft was featured on the news, and on Wednesday, a man came forward and told police he bought one of the monkeys for $250 from a man he met at the lakefront in St. Cloud. The monkey was returned to its owner, Liz Douglas.

Then, on Friday, another person came forward and told police he bought a monkey from Henault and thought it may be one of the stolen marmosets featured on the news. That monkey was also returned to Douglas.

As police investigated, they realized the first man who came forward to return the monkey was Henault's brother, Graham said. He admitted he lied to police, but it is unclear if he knew the monkey was stolen.

Anyone with information about Henault's whereabouts are asked to call CrimeLine at 1-800-423-TIPS or St. Cloud police at 407-891-6799. Henault is also wanted for separate case being investigated by the Osceola County Sheriff's Office.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Wild Monkeys A Threat To Islamabad Zoo Visitors

Wild monkeys have become a threat to visitors of the Capital Zoo. The monkeys used to cross into the zoo, which is covered by thick forests of Margalla Hills, day and night to be fed by visitors.

A zoo official told Daily Times on Sunday that wild monkeys were as dangerous as a mad dog. He said, “Recently, a monkey attacked a child inside the zoo boundary.”

He said the child’s parents were around and snatched back their baby from the monkey’s grip. He said, “Visitors, especially, children are unable to differentiate between trained and untrained monkeys. They often fell prey to wild monkeys.”

Polyclinic doctor Saima Mnazoor said bite of an infected monkey could cause rabies, which was deadly, if not treated properly. She said five, instead of 14, doses of anti-rabies vaccine could cure a patient.

The zoo officials said more and more wild monkeys had been crossing into the zoo to feast on sugarcane trash, which was thrown openly. They said zoo attendants had been asked to watch movement of monkeys so that they did not harm visitors.

An official said, “The zoo administration has not taken measures to prevent movement of wild monkeys in the zoo.”

He said the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had planned to specify areas on Damn-e-Koh Road, which was on the back of the zoo, for people to feed wild monkeys. Hence, he said, monkeys would be attracted away from the zoo.

He said, “Visitors going to Damne-e-Koh stop at many places on the road to see monkeys, blocking traffic. Once areas are specified for monkeys, traffic problem will also be resolved.”

He said the specified area would be fenced to stop monkey attacks on visitors, who should be educated on the harms monkey bites could do to them.

He said the number of zoo visitors had increased after addition of new animals in its cages.

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Chimpanzee Euthanized At Lincoln Park Zoo

chimpLincoln Park Zoo veterinarians Thursday afternoon euthanized Donna, a wild-born, 42-year-old chimpanzee who went into a coma after being anesthetized for a routine physical exam.

Zoo officials said that three staff veterinarians and their assistants completed Donna's annual physical, a 30- to 45-minute procedure, and put her in a space in the ape house to wake up when her heart stopped. They worked on Donna for more than hour, reviving her with CPR. However, she had lapsed into a coma, officials said.

"When it was apparent that we weren't going to get her back," said Robyn Barbiers, the zoo's vice president for animal collections, "we decided euthanasia was the most humane decision."

Donna had spent all but the first two years of her life at the zoo.

The zoo's pathology team performed a necropsy—an animal postmortem exam— and said they found no immediate causes for the death. Officials said results from more detailed tests could take weeks.

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Boozy Smoking Chimp Rescued From Navy By Edinburgh Zoo

Ricky the chimp used to have a rum old life...smoking and drinking with sailors on the high seas.

But the 47-year-old ape has been rescued from his miserable life as a merchant navy mascot and now has a swinging time in a £5.65 million monkey mansion.

Ricky, who was forced to puff cigarettes and drink alcohol during his five years at sea, is one of 11 chimps who have been moved into the new Budongo Trail enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.

With three spacious living rooms and the world's largest ape-climbing frame, Ricky - rescued by the zoo in 1966 - has never had it so good.

The exhibit, a world first, has been so successful that the zoo are looking at bringing giant pandas to Scotland for the first time.

Budongo Trail, which will eventually hold 40 animals, officially opens to the public on May 2.

The enclosure's head keeper Jo Richardson, 34, said: "Prior to their move the chimps lived in a low building without the height and space to climb freely or be separate.

"Their new space is intended to give them room to move, make noise and generally act as they would in the wild.

"It's fantastic and they have all settled in really well, especially Ricky, who has been at the zoo the longest."

The unique trail is modelled on the Budongo Conservation Field Station, which the zoo sponsors in Uganda.

It has three pod-like rooms with different humidity, temperatures and light linked by tunnels.

Behaviour experts can monitor how they react to their new environment.

The pods are linked to an outdoor climbing area, separated from the public path by a moat, which chimps will not cross because they hate water.

Jo said: "A lot of people see themselves in chimps' behaviour and that is not surprising seeing as they share 98 per cent of their DNA with humans.

"Coming to Budongo and watching our chimps interact is better entertainment than watching EastEnders.

They all have different characteristics and political positions within the group, which is great to observe.

"We don't have a breeding programme but this will change when we introduce more chimps."

The man behind the innovative exhibit is the zoo's head of properties and estates, Gary Wilson.

The 45-year-old, of Fort William, spent a year designing the enclosure, which took 18 months to build.

It also has interactive areas for children and teenagers, a board room and a lecture theatre, which look into the pods.

Gary said: "I was given a diagram of three circles and told to come up with a new chimpanzee house.

"I wanted to bring the people and animals together in a 'you watch them and they watch you' scenario.

"It took a long time to make sure everything met with zoo, public and licensing building requirements."

The biggest challenge was the apeclimbing frame, which is made up of 96 two-tonne creeper trunks, 250 telegraph poles and four miles of rope.

Gary said: "We had to ship the struts from Brazil. It took 30 soldiers and 15 of our own team two weeks to set up.

"The bolts had to be welded down because chimps have four times the strength of humans and can use their hands like a wrench."

Gary also revealed the enclosure has attracted lots of interest - even from people who want to marry there.

He added: "Budongo is the start of our master-plan for Edinburgh Zoo.

"We are seeing if it is feasible to house giant pandas in the zoo and looking at bringing back Orang-utans.

"We are also building a dome over the penguin enclosure, where they will live in sub-zero temperatures like they do in the Antarctic."

Story here.

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Uganda Wildlife Officers Rescue Chimpanzee From Catholic Priest

A three-year-old chimpanzee was recovered three weeks ago from the residence of a Catholic priest in the Hoima district.

Ugandan wildlife officers rescued the chimp from the home of Fr Josemarie Kizito following a tip off from residents, New Vision reported.

The chimp, named Leo, has lost two fingers from his right hand, but he picks food faster than other chimpanzees rescued from suspected poachers. The chimp, which was confined for one year in a wooden cage at the priest's home, was recovered with the help of the police who are yet to question Fr Kizito.

The chimpanzee was taken to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe which also houses 13 other chimps.

Lilly Ajarova, the executive director of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Conservation Wildlife Trust, said Leo was rescued on March 15 from Kyangwali Village after a tip-off by a resident.

Chimps are listed as endangered species that should not be held in captivity, according to national and international wildlife laws.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Federal Bill Introduced to End Invasive Research on Chimpanzees

chimp legislationA bi-partisan group in Congress today introduced The Great Ape Protection Act to end invasive research and testing on an estimated 1,200 chimpanzees remaining in U.S. laboratories. The bill would also retire approximately 600 federally owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories — many for more than 40 years already — to permanent sanctuary. U.S. Representatives Edolphus Towns ( D-N.Y. ), David Reichert ( R-Wash. ), Jim Langevin ( D-R.I. ), and Roscoe Bartlett ( R-Md. ) introduced the legislation, along with Bruce Braley ( D-Iowa ), Tom Allen ( D-Maine ), John Campbell ( R-Calif. ) and Mary Bono Mack ( R-Calif. ) also as original cosponsors.

According to Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, “The remarkable cognitive ability of chimpanzees makes this an urgent moral issue requiring immediate action in Congress.”

Theodora Capaldo, EdD, president and executive director of NEAVS’ Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories, added, “With passage of this bill, the United States will join other scientifically advanced nations that have already banned or severely limited the use of chimpanzees, and all great apes, in research. It’s the right thing to do. It’s time.”

“I have always been a strong supporter of animal protection,” said Representative Towns. “This legislation is an important step towards protecting chimpanzees from inhumane treatment.”

Representative Reichert added, “I’m excited to bring this bill to the attention of the House with hopes of phasing out the inhumane and unproductive practice of invasive research on great apes.”

The bill is supported by The Humane Society of the United States and NEAVS’ Project R&R along with other organizations and world-renowned chimpanzee experts and leaders. The HSUS Chimps Deserve Better Campaign and NEAVS’ Project R&R have spearheaded efforts to educate the public about the use of chimpanzees in research and testing, drawing unprecedented support for this bill not only from the public but also from more than 300 scientists, physicians and educators.

The U.S. is the largest remaining user of chimpanzees in biomedical research in the world. England, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Austria and Japan have banned or limited their use. The cost to U.S. taxpayers for chimpanzee research and maintenance is estimated at $20 – 25 million per year, money that many in the scientific community believe could be allocated to more effective research.

“As a scientist who worked with chimpanzees on research projects, I believe the time has come to limit invasive research on these animals and rigorously apply existing alternatives,” stated Representative Bartlett.

Time is running out for chimpanzees in U.S. laboratories. An estimated 90 percent of them are considered elderly. A survey conducted in 2005 by an independent polling company found that 71 percent of the American public agrees that chimpanzees held in a laboratory for 10 years or more should be retired and that Americans are twice as likely to support a ban as to oppose it.

“I am so proud to be a sponsor of this legislation,” said Representative Langevin. “I am moved by the sophisticated social and emotional capacity chimpanzees exhibit and believe we have an obligation to do all we can to protect their welfare.”

The HSUS and NEAVS’ Project R&R are encouraged by the strong, receptive support legislators are giving this bill.

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Monkeys Rescued From Abandoned Parks Department Trap

The trap was set, the monkeys came and there they stayed for almost a week until finally released from their confinement by the Wildlife and National Parks Department.

Yesterday, The Malay Mail was alerted to the pitiful condition of the monkeys that fell into the department’s trap set in Batu Caves last week. They have remained there without food or water.

The caller, who declined to be identified, said that the large metal trap was placed in the compound of a privately-owned com pany along Jalan Station, in Batu Caves.

“We contacted the Wildlife Department many times to come get the monkeys but they didn’t respond immediately.”

Although some concerned people were able to place bananas into the trap, they have been unable to find a way to provide wa ter as well.

“I know at least one died and the smell got worse,” he said, adding the monkeys have also be gun fighting with one another and some have sustained injuries.

He explained the area has been disturbed by monkeys lately due to the many development projects being carried out near the Batu Caves hillside.

“Many trees have been felled to accommodate this. The monkeys do not have anywhere else to go.”

“My issue is not the trapping of monkeys. My concern is animal rights. The Wildlife Department should check on the traps.”

The Malay Mail visited the site yesterday, following the tip-off, and arrived just as personnel from the Shah Alam Wildlife Department were about to load a metal cage filled with monkeys onto their truck.

Of the 12 caught, officers transferred nine monkeys into the wire cage and placed the dead primates into a black bag.

According to Shah Alam Wildlife Department control head Saidu Wahid, the three probably died due to fighting among themselves.

Normally, according to Saidu, it was the duty of the complainants to alert the department when monkeys are trapped.

In this case, however, he ex plained miscommunication and “transportation breakdown” were the reasons for the department’s delay.

Saidu explained: “This area actually falls under our Kuala Kubu Baru division but their vehicles broke down and so were unable to come here earlier. There was also communication breakdown between us, so we were not made aware sooner.”

He said, however, he rushed to the scene as soon as he received the information today.

As for the fate of the monkeys, Saidu said the injured animals would be taken back to the de partment for treatment and the rest released into the wild.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pet Monkeys Stolen From St. Cloud Home, One Returned

monkeys stolenSt. Cloud police are looking for the person who stole Liz Douglas' two marmoset monkeys from her home this weekend. Douglas' monkeys, Lola and Tequila, were taken from the back patio of her home on Ohio Avenue early Saturday morning, police said.

Douglas contacted the media Wednesday because she worried that the monkeys were not being fed properly. The thieves left the finicky animals' food at the house.

One of the monkeys was returned to Douglas late last night after man watching a late television newscast realized he'd bought one of the monkeys days earlier out of the back of a pick up truck, police said. The other monkey is still missing.

"He took a picture of the house on the TV screen and started driving up and down Ohio Avenue" until he found Douglas' house, said Sgt. Boyd Graham. "Kudos to him."

The monkeys were kept on the Douglas' back porch in a cage. Both animals and the cage were stolen, Graham said. The monkeys are worth an estimated $2,500 each, Graham said.

"They are skiddish and she is worried that they could bite or scratch someone," Graham said.

Police may have a lead on a suspect in the case, but would not go into detail because the investigation is on-going.

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Monkey That Bit Child Euthanized For Rabies Test

A monkey that had bitten a 6-year-old girl in Trenton and then was transported to a Monroe County home was euthanized so it could be tested for rabies.

Wayne County health officials confirmed the monkey did not have rabies, but its blood is being tested for other life-threatening diseases.

Loretta Davis, health officer/director with the Wayne County Department of Public Health, said rabies testing only can be done with a biopsy of the brain, so the monkey had to be put down. She said she understood the monkey was someone's pet, but the girl's health was the main concern.

"This was a fairly serious situation," Ms. Davis said. "It's unfortunate, but it did need to be done."

The primate was a Java macaque monkey, which only can be owned as a pet in Michigan with a proper permit. Blood samples were sent to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta to determine whether the monkey was carrying viruses such as hepatitis, HIV and tuberculosis, which is possible for that type of species.

The biting incident occurred April 6 outside a church off Jefferson Ave. in Trenton. Children were playing outside that day when a man walking his pet monkey on a leash approached. As the man got closer, the monkey suddenly jumped on the girl's shoulder.

She tried to get the monkey off her, and it bit her on the finger, officials said. The puncture wound caused bleeding, and the girl was treated in a local hospital.

Hospital officials then contacted the health department, which began an investigation. Ms. Davis said someone took the monkey to a home in Monroe County where a recent owner lives.

Linda Benson, director of Monroe County Animal Control, said the animal was in her facility briefly until Wayne County officials retrieved the primate under armed guard.

It originally reported to The Evening News that a boy was bitten and that he was seriously ill. That was incorrect. There has been only one monkey bite incident reported recently.

Ms. Davis said she did not know whether the owners had a permit to keep the monkey legally. However, the main issue was the health of the child, she said. Since the rabies test came back negative, the youngster did not have to undergo painful shots.

Ms. Davis said it should be several days before final results are available. She said about 80 percent of that species of monkey carries the herpes virus. She said there is no vaccine for rabies, such as there is for dogs, so there is no way to prevent disease. That is why she advises against owning exotic monkeys.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Flores 'Hobbit' Walked More Like A Clown Than Frodo

flores hobbitTolkien's hobbits walked an awful long way, but the real "hobbit", Homo floresiensis, would not have got far.

Its flat, clown-like feet probably limited its speed to what we would consider a stroll, and kept its travels short, says Bill Jungers, an anthropologist at the State University of New York in Stony Brook.

"It's never going to win the 100-yard dash, and it's never going to win the marathon," he says.

He presented his conclusion at last week's meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Columbus, Ohio.

By analysing the nearly complete left foot of an 18,000-year-old hobbit skeleton dubbed LB1, found on the Indonesian island of Flores , Jungers' team estimated the length of the hobbit's feet, which were unusually large for its metre-high frame. "Sort of like a young girl wearing her mum's shoes," Junger says.

And because of their long feet, H. floresiensis probably had to bend its knee further back than modern humans do, resulting in a sort of high-stepped gait. "You would watch these hobbits walk and say they're walking a little funny," Jungers says.

The foot had other peculiar features as well. For one, its big toe was quite short compared with the others, similar to earlier hominids such as Australopithecus. However, the shape of the toes, even the short big toe, is like modern human ones, Jungers says. "It has a human morphology and an ape-like proportion," he says.

Jungers and other researchers who claim the hobbit was a distinct species from Homo sapiens point to the foot as further evidence supporting their theory. It has been suggested that the hobbit suffered from a severe block to growth known as cretinism or a disease called microcephaly that leads to miniaturised heads.

"It puts another nail in the coffin of the disease hypothesis," says Henry McHenry, an anthropologist at the University of California, Davis who saw the presentation.

But the feet don't solve the bigger mystery of where H. floresiensis originated, McHenry says. "It's so strange," he muses.

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Gibraltar Killing Off Aggressive Monkeys

monkeys killedGibraltar's iconic monkeys are facing a cull after terrorising tourists on the British colony.

A pack of 25 of the Barbary macaques have “run riot” on a beach, have broken into hotel rooms and have been caught scavenging in bins in the town centre.

The threat of attacks on humans and the possibility of the spread of disease has forced authorities to approve the cull “as a last resort”.

Ernest Britto, Gibraltar’s tourist minister, defended the plans for the cull, saying: “Children are frightened. People cannot leave their windows open for fear of the monkeys stealing. “Apes can bite, and contact with them runs the risk of salmonella or hepatitis.”

Vets are to track down the tearaways and put them down by lethal injection. Two have already been killed.

The Gibraltar population of the Barbary macaque – a monkey commonly referred to as the Barbary ape because of its stubby tail – numbers more than 200.

They attract hundreds of tourists every day to the areas around Apes Den and the Siege Tunnels at the top of the Rock.

Francis Cantos, the spokesman for the Government of Gibraltar, insisted: “This is being done as a last resort.

“The apes we are targeting are part of a breakaway group that are going into town and making a nuisance as well as posing health hazards.

“They’ve been spotted going through rubbish, vandalising property and stealing from people. They ran riot at the beach at Catalan Bay.”

The cull has the backing of many locals including staff at Gibraltar’s Caleta Hotel, where guests’ rooms were vandalised recently by apes looking for food.

However, the decision to destroy the rogue pack has been condemned by animal protection groups.

Helen Thirlway, the conservation and welfare director for the International Primate Protection League (IPPL) in the UK, said the monkeys were the colony’s most popular tourist attraction and the “needless slaughter has to stop”.

British soldiers are thought to have introduced the apes, natives of north Africa, into Gibraltar in the mid-18th century to use for shooting practice.

Local folklore has it that the colony would cease to be British if the monkeys were to leave.

Winston Churchill took it seriously enough to ship extra monkey from north Africa to Gibraltar during the Second World War.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obese Monkeys Cause Concern At Ohama Park

fat monkeysThough they might worry about their own waistlines, visitors to Ohama park here don't seem to be bothered by its roly-poly "metabolic monkeys"--in fact, they happily overfeed them.

The rise in primate rotundity is alarming the municipal park's overseers.

Visitors love to offer the macaques snacks, bread or even leftovers from their meals, officials say. And the monkeys love to chow it all down.

The park has no full-time zookeeper. Some 50 Macaca mulatta monkeys roam in their enclosure.

Some have grown so big they are two or three times heavier than average weight.

Many monkeys find it too hard to move in the 420-square-meter enclosure.

Visitors react with insults or pitying comments, the officials said.

One official says he has had to explain that a particular monkey with a swollen abdomen isn't pregnant--it simply has a pot belly.

About 30 percent of the monkeys appear to be overweight, with the group's top five leaders weighing in at 15 kilograms or more.

The heaviest male tips the scales at an astonishing 29.2 kg.

In comparison, the average male Macaca mulatta monkey weighs between 5 and 11 kg, according to the Environment Ministry.

Alarmed park officials last year put them on a diet, switching their food to a less fattening type, but such efforts have been in vain because visitors continue to feed the creatures.

Anywhere from 10 to 20 people feed the monkeys each day, ignoring the four warning signs.

A nearby resident said she regularly comes to give the troupe bits left over from her breakfast, or bananas and peanuts. "I feel sorry for the small monkeys, who are often robbed of their share by the larger ones," she said.

Shoji Hasegawa, head of the park's administrative office, said the park assumed the amount of food it provided was adequate because the monkeys always ate it all up.

To keep people from tossing food into the monkey space, the city government is debating whether to erect a fence around it this fiscal year, Hasegawa said.

Akira Kato, chief of the Japan Monkey Center, a zoo and research center in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, said measures to prevent visitors from throwing food should be put in place immediately. Giving the animals an unrestricted supply of food is tantamount to abuse, he said.

"It is shocking to hear there is a park that still treats animals like that," he said.

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Monkeys Cause Power Outage In Central Delhi

The Indian capital, New Delhi, is famous worldwide for its monkey menace, especially during the summer months.

People living in Delhi have grappled with the monkey menace for many years now, and over the past decade, things have gone from bad to worse.

Tuesday was no different. Most parts of Central Delhi, and especially the upmarket business district of Connaught Place and neighbouring Janpath, had no power for several hours, becoming victims of the monkey menace.

Hungry monkeys attacked a `Chole Batura vendor, took away his items and climbed onto high-tension cables providing power to the area. One of the monkeys fell onto the main power transformer in the Janpath area, which caused a short circuit, and led to a blackout.

Shopkeepers and customers came out onto the streets to see what the commotion was all about. Some even lodged complaints with the area power distribution authority. Emergency staff has been called in to repair the damaged transformer and cables at the earliest.

This is the second time in the last year-and-a-half that monkeys have caused a power breakdown in the upmarket Janapth-Connaught Place area. In 2007, a similar incident occurred near the popular Hanuman Mandir, causing widespread disruption.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Russia To Send Monkeys To Mars

monkeys to marsThey won't utter Yuri Gagarin's famous phrase "Let's go!" But the monkeys of Sochi have already proven their worth as trailblazers in space - and now they are being groomed for a trip to Mars.

The macaques will be the first to experience the radiation that poses a big risk to astronauts - or Russian cosmonauts - on any flight to the Red Planet.

The Sochi Institute of Medical Primatology, at Vesyoloye near the Black Sea, has a proud history of involvement in the Russian - formerly Soviet - space programme.

"People and monkeys have approximately identical sensitivity to small and large radiation doses," explains the institute's director, Boris Lapin. "So it is better to experiment on the macaques, but not on dogs or other animals."

The institute will select macaques that may eventually fly to Mars before humans do. After two years of experiments the most suitable 40 monkeys will be sent to the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, where scientists study aerospace biomedicine.

Experiments on the monkeys will be carried out at the same time as the Mars-500 project. That project - due to start early next year - is aimed at simulating the conditions of interplanetary flight. Volunteers will have to spend 17 months in a mock-up "spaceship" in Moscow.

In addition to the effects of radiation, space scientists want to see how the monkeys react to prolonged weightless conditions, isolation and a special diet of juices and pureed food.

Mars-500 director Viktor Baranov says 520 days "are enough for the flight to Mars - 250 days to fly there, 250 days to come back and a month for the landing on Mars".

Today Russia is one of the few countries where experiments on primates are carried out.

"Humanity sacrifices more than 100 million animals a year in the name of health and beauty. It's time to think of an alternative to experiments with animals," says Andrei Zbarsky of the international nature conservation group WWF.

"I'm sure scientists will repeat the story of Laika, the first dog in space. Today it's no secret that the dog died from the nervous stress immediately after the rocket launch and its dead body revolved in orbit for two weeks."

Mr Lapin admits that his institute has received some objections from European colleagues concerned about the animal experiments.

A researcher at the institute, Anaida Shaginyan, says "certainly, I feel sorry for the monkeys, they might die, but the experiments are necessary to preserve the lives of the cosmonauts who will fly to Mars in future".

The institute has a breeding programme for the macaques, so it is not necessary to catch them in the wild.

Twelve macaques have flown in Russian and Soviet spaceships on previous missions.

Abrek and Bion were the first into space, in December 1983. After a five-day flight they landed in Kazakhstan and after rehabilitation returned to the pack.

Two years later the monkeys Verny and Gordy spent seven days in space.

In 1987 Dryoma and Yerosha spent two weeks in orbit. After returning from space Dryoma was presented to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

After that there were three two-week flights: in 1989, 1992 and 1996. Then the project stopped - Russia did not have enough money for the programme. Now experiments are conducted on Earth under conditions which simulate weightlessness.

Sixteen-year-old space veteran Krosh is a star of the institute.

"Old man Krosh is about 60 years old, if we translate his monkey age to a human life span. He is very active. He responds well to food and is aggressive with his female partners," says Ms Shaginyan.

"After rehabilitation he produced offspring. And that's proof that spaceflight did not harm his health," she added.

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Male Monkeys Eavesdrop On Mating Females

eavesdropping monkeysFemale Barbary macaques emit ear-piercing calls when mating, and now researchers have determined other males listen to these sounds with apparent interest.

Since the female calls vary, depending on whether or not the male partner has successfully mated, it's believed the eavesdropping males use the sounds to figure out what's going on "in the bedroom" and may even rate the happenings.

"The fact that copulation calls are loud and distinctive gives other males of the group the chance to listen in and 'judge' copulations," lead author Dana Pfefferle told Discovery News.

Pfefferle, a primatologist at the German Primate Center in Gottingen, and her colleagues previously discovered that female Barbary macaques act a bit like cheerleaders when mating, using their vocalizations to cheer on and stimulate their mates, causing their partners to increase their thrusting rates.

The scientists documented two basic types of female mating calls: those linked to partner ejaculation and those linked to no ejaculation.

"The peak frequency is higher and the interval between the single units of the call is shorter in ejaculatory compared to non-ejaculatory calls," explained Pfefferle.

For the new study, she and her team recorded these two types of calls from a female who was in the fertile stage of her monthly cycle. The scientists played the recordings for unsuspecting male Barbary macaques at an outdoor enclosure called La Foret des Singes, located in Rocamadour, France.

Playbacks were carried out when the test males were engaged in quiet activities, such as resting, self-grooming or feeding, and when these males were facing away from the speaker.

For the most part, the listening males ignored the non-ejaculatory copulation calls, even though they were emitted by a fertile female. When vocalizations associated with ejaculation were played, however, the males looked around and approached the speaker.

The findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behavior.

While the researches did not conduct the experiment with actual mating couples, they theorize that in the wild, eavesdropping males would be more inclined to mate with a female who has just received another male's sperm. Since sperm itself "competes" within the female for access to her egg, the noisy process may promote competition, result in fertilization by the fittest male and therefore be supported by natural selection.

Stuart Semple, senior lecturer in the School of Human and Life Sciences at London's Roehampton University, studies primate socializing and welfare.

Semple told Discovery News the he thinks the new study presents "very exciting results, which further our understanding of the complex information content and function of female copulation calls," he said.

Semple added, "I would, however, be very hesitant to extrapolate the findings to copulation calling in humans."

Pfefferle agrees on that point.

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Babec The Gorilla Euthanized

babec gorillaBabec, the Birmingham Zoo gorilla who became famous when he received a pacemaker and defibrillator in 2004, was euthanized Friday, zoo officials said.

The 28-year-old lowland gorilla was diagnosed with heart disease in 2003. He started clutching his chest and acting lethargic about three weeks ago and was pulled off exhibit about two weeks ago.

"He will be missed," zoo curator Roger Iles said Friday. "He's known nationally. That's something to be proud of and something not just the zoo but the Birmingham community has accomplished."

Iles said the operation to insert the cardiac resynchronization therapy, CRT, device, prolonged his life for 3½ years. Lowland gorillas typically live until their early 30s in the wild, but average higher in zoos, with the record at 54 years.

Iles and zoo CEO Bill Foster said Babec contributed to the understanding of gorillas, who have a history of suffering heart disease in captivity.

"Babec is a pioneer for his species," Iles said. "We've learned so much from his life with us."

Every beat of Babec's heart was monitored and recorded by the machine, and on Friday veterinarians began a necropsy, the animal version of autopsy, which is standard for all zoo animals when they die.

The information gathered will be fed into a database scientists around the country are working on to determine why zoo gorillas, especially males in their 20s and 30s, are dying of heart ailments.

Babec himself started exhibiting symptoms in March 2003, when he was 23. A team of zoo veterinarians and UAB medical school and hospital doctors determined that the 400-pound gorilla suffered from severe cardiac disease. He was treated at first with the same medications humans take for heart disease, including diuretics, and given a prescription for Powerade to keep him hydrated.

It worked for a while, but by July of 2004, an exam showed he had gotten worse. He lost 80 pounds, his appetite declined and he became lethargic, and doctors decided he had final stage heart failure.

A team of UAB cardiologists decided to try implanting the CRT device, which is commonly done for humans but had never been attempted in a zoo animal. Keepers worried they would lose him during the seven-hour operation.

Instead, he lived through it and two more. The device was replaced in 2005 after it was damaged when Babec scuffled with the zoo's other lowland gorilla, Jamie, and again last year when the battery was wearing down.

Iles said the success made Babec famous, particularly in the zoo world, where colleagues always asked about him at conferences.

"We were on the cutting edge of research with this, but we knew in the back of our minds that we were on borrowed time," he said. This time, however, Babec was too ill for another surgery.

Cade said the primate keepers were trying to plan some kind of memorial for Babec. Meanwhile, a sign will likely be placed on his exhibit - which includes pictures of his first heart operation - informing visitors what happened.

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