Friday, May 30, 2008

'Gangster' Monkey Shot Dead At Cambodian Temple

temple monkeyA violent 20-kilogramme monkey at a temple in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh was shot dead after it attacked visitors, an official said Friday.

The rowdy male macaque was killed on Thursday, because "it had bitten many people and many people said the monkey was a gangster," said Chhim Dina, the deputy of Phnom Penh's Daun Penh district.

Just last week the macaque bit a 60-year-old woman on her head, hands and legs, he said.

"We decided to kill the monkey because it disturbed tourists visiting Wat Phnom Pagoda," he said, adding that authorities are working to capture more dangerous monkeys in the area.

Wat Phnom is crowded with some 200 semi-tame macaques who occasionally cause havoc to nearby homes and hotels, tearing apart tile roofs, destroying laundry and stealing loose items.

Authorities in the past tried to trap unruly monkeys by getting them to eat eggs laced with sleeping pills, but were unsuccessful.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, May 29, 2008

37 Injured In Latest Orissa Monkey Attack

In the latest attack of a rowdy and violent monkey, at least 37 persons, including children and women, have been injured in remote Nikirai village under Orissa’s Kendrapara district since the past 48 hours.

The male simian species inhabiting in the village for more than a decade went amuck attacking the villagers. Four of the seriously injured persons have been admitted to the Kendrapara District Headquarters Hospital.

The villagers have drawn the attention of the local Rajnagar Mangrove Forest Division officials to the monkey depredation. But remedial measures to drive away the monkeys are yet to be launched, they rued.

The hospital sources said that more than 100 from the particular village have been administered anti-rabies vaccine in the past six months. Animal researchers are of the view that this typical behavioural tendency of simian species can be traced back to the loss of monkeys’ habitat and daily food.

This trend has apparently become pronounced since 1999 when the cyclone had caused maximum damage to the tree cover. The monkeys turned itinerant moving from one place to another.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monkey Controlling Brain-Wired Bionic Arms Gives Hope To Disabled

monkey robot armNOTE: Monkeys In The News first reported this 2 years ago, why it has suddenly re-emerged as current news, we don't know, but the media is buzzing non-the-less.

A monkey has successfully fed itself with fluid, well-controlled movements of a human-like robotic arm by using only signals from its brain, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine report in the journal Nature. This significant advance could benefit development of prosthetics for people with spinal cord injuries and those with "locked-in" conditions such as Lou Gehrig's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

"Our immediate goal is to make a prosthetic device for people with total paralysis," said Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D., senior author and professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Ultimately, our goal is to better understand brain complexity."

Previously, work has focused on using brain-machine interfaces to control cursor movements displayed on a computer screen. Monkeys in the Schwartz lab have been trained to command cursor movements with the power of their thoughts.

"Now we are beginning to understand how the brain works using brain-machine interface technology," said Dr. Schwartz. "The more we understand about the brain, the better we'll be able to treat a wide range of brain disorders, everything from Parkinson's disease and paralysis to, eventually, Alzheimer's disease and perhaps even mental illness."

Using this technology, monkeys in the Schwartz lab are able to move a robotic arm to feed themselves marshmallows and chunks of fruit while their own arms are restrained. Computer software interprets signals picked up by probes the width of a human hair. The probes are inserted into neuronal pathways in the monkey's motor cortex, a brain region where voluntary movement originates as electrical impulses. The neurons' collective activity is then evaluated using software programmed with a mathematic algorithm and then sent to the arm, which carries out the actions the monkey intended to perform with its own limb. Movements are fluid and natural, and evidence shows that the monkeys come to regard the robotic device as part of their own bodies.

The primary motor cortex, a part of the brain that controls movement, has thousands of nerve cells, called neurons, which fire together as they contribute to the generation of movement. Because of the massive number of neurons that fire at the same time to control even the simplest of actions, it would be impossible to create probes that capture the firing pattern of each. Pitt researchers developed a special algorithm that uses limited information from about 100 neurons to fill in the missing signals.

"In our research, we've demonstrated a higher level of precision, skill and learning," explained Dr. Schwartz. "The monkey learns by first observing the movement, which activates his brain cells as if he were doing it. It's a lot like sports training, where trainers have athletes first imagine that they are performing the movements they desire."

In addition to Dr. Schwartz, authors include Meel Velliste, Ph.D., and Sagi Perel, M. Chance Spalding and Andrew S. Whitford, all Pitt bioengineering graduate students.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rejected Baby Monkey Gets £30,000 Donation

monkey orphanA baby monkey being reared by hand after he was rejected by his mother at birth has been given a name and £30,000 for his care.

The donation has been raised by ticket sales for the Zoo Thousand and Eight music festival which is being held at Kent's Port Lympne Wild Animal Park.

And the monkey has been nicknamed Baby Ronnie after the musician Mark Ronson who is headlining the event in July.

The cash will pay for the male Diana monkey's care during his early years.

Primate keeper Jamie Robertson said: "He is doing really well and growing massively.

"He is developing at the right sort of stages as if he had been parent-reared."

And he said the money would go towards a new enclosure as well as food and play equipment for the monkey, which currently goes home with zoo keepers every night as it cannot be left on its own.

Baby Ronnie was born on Good Friday and was 66 days old on Sunday.

It is believed his mother, Angie, failed to bond with him after a difficult labour led to a caesarean section having to be carried out.

The Diana monkey is named after the Roman goddess of the moon because of the distinctive white crescent shape on its forehead.

It is one of the most endangered of all the guenons, a type of forest monkey native to West Africa.

The Zoo Thousand and Eight festival from 4 to 6 July will see a range of acts including Dizzee Rascal, Ash, The Hives and Athlete performing across eight stages.

Organisers have said 20,000 revellers are expected each day.

The festival is being held on grassland outside the park, which is run by The Aspinall Foundation, and festival-goers will be able to visit the animal park for a reduced price.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, May 23, 2008

NASCAR Driver Gives Pet Monkey To Louisville Zoo

The Louisville Zoo has added Mojo, a 3-year-old patas monkey previously owned by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and friend Krista Dwyer.

When Stewart and Dwyer noticed that Mojo was maturing and becoming aggressive, they sought help from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which recommended the Louisville Zoo, said zoo spokeswoman Kara Bussabarger.

Bussabarger said the association was aware that the Louisville zoo already had three female patas monkeys, and was looking for a male. She said a check of Mojo's genetics showed he's a good potential mate for Louisville's monkeys.

In prepared statements, Stewart and Dwyer said they were doing what they thought was right for the patas monkey, a species that comes from Africa and is known for its running speed. It is also considered to be threatened in its native habitat.

"I know Mojo is in terrific hands," said Stewart, 37, of Columbus, Ind.

"We want Mojo to be happy and live a good life," Dwyer said, adding that she wants "people to know that primates and wild animals don't make good pets."

Louisville Zoo Gorilla Forest supervisor Roby Elsner said Mojo will get to "experience a social life typical for his species, and the zoo association's North American captive population of patas monkeys -- which needs to grow -- is increased by one."

The monkey will be on exhibit for the first time today.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No Federal Violations For Boiled Lab Monkey Death

boiled monkeyIt's official. Scalding a lab monkey to death in a hot-water rack-washer doesn't violate any federal animal welfare laws.

That's the ruling from the U.S. Department of Agriculture following an exclusive KIRO Team 7 Investigation into the handling of primates at an Everett pharmaceutical testing facility.

However, Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne discovered SNBL is still under USDA watch.

USDA didn't issue any violations for the boiled monkey incident -- case closed. However, newly released documents show that less than a year before that fatal accident, the feds nailed SNBL with a massive fine for a series of unrelated, repeat animal care violations.

The federal documents say two SNBL workers failed to do their jobs when they left a healthy female macaque monkey inside her cage, then sent the animal and cage into a 180-degree cleaning machine. Despite that monkey’s death, the USDA gave the lab a pass; All it took was a promise from SNBL that it would institute new requirements on checking cages before washing them.

Animal rights attorney Adam Karp is disappointed.

"If this is the complete investigation, which consists of one page and talking to one individual and relying on hearsay, then I think putting our hope and promise into a USDA investigation is far worse than I ever expected."

Karp says he is closely watching the criminal investigation currently under way into the monkey's death by the Everett police department. He says that if that fails to get results, he is considering other legal action against the employees responsible for the primate's death.

"Very few instances of cruelty and neglect that take place in institutionalized setting like this ever come to the light of day, and if the ones we do have the luck of detecting and pursuing are ignored and forgotten, then these patterns will just continue. So it’s important to take these seriously so they don't happen again."

SNBL Everett did not respond to a KIRO Team 7 Investigators request for comment on the boiled monkey case -- or the $31,000 USDA fine.

In about five years, just prior to the latest monkey death, documents show, SNBL racked up 133 violations of the animal welfare act; Findings include repeatedly failing to protect primates from injury or provide adequate veterinary care.

USDA investigators also found multiple cases of SNBL making "significant changes in the protocol" of studies without approval.

USDA reduced that $31,000 fine to around $13,000 after SNBL recently appealed. That comes out to less than $100 per violation.

A spokesperson for the Everett police department says a detective has been assigned to look into possible felony animal cruelty charges and the case is ongoing.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, May 19, 2008

First Genetically Modified Primates Created To Have Huntington's Disease

genetically modified monkeysScientists have created monkeys genetically modified to have Huntington's disease in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of the fatal ailment and uncover clues to possible new treatments.

In the journal Nature on Sunday, the researchers said one of two surviving rhesus macaque monkeys engineered to have the defective gene that causes Huntington's in humans already is showing tell-tale symptoms at age 10 months.

Huntington's -- incurable and hereditary -- is caused by a single abnormal gene in which certain nerve cells in the brain waste away. People are born with the gene but symptoms typically do not appear until middle age.

Researchers often study laboratory animals such as mice to get insights into the underlying biology of diseases. But monkeys and other primates are more similar to people than rodents in physiological, neurological and genetic features.

The scientists at Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta said the monkeys are the first primates genetically modified to have a human disease.

They hope studying the monkeys will allow for greater knowledge of Huntington's and ideas for new drugs.

"Rodent species can capture some of the characteristics of the disease, but they have not been satisfactory in being able to really capture the essence of the disease," Stuart Zola, head of the Yerkes center, said in a telephone interview.

"Now we have a genetically modified nonhuman primate that really has captured the clinical signs that we see in patients with Huntington's disease."

Those with the progressive, degenerative disease experience uncontrolled movements, emotional disturbances and mental deterioration.

Drugs can help manage symptoms but do not stop the physical and mental decline. People typically die within 10 to 15 years after symptoms arise.

The researchers said they chose Huntington's as the disease for creating the genetically modified monkeys with an eye toward simplicity -- because it is linked to mutations in a single gene rather than multiple genes.

Zola said the achievement could pave the way for creating genetically modified primates with other neurodegenerative ailments such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

"This research allows scientists to advance beyond mouse models, which do not replicate all of the changes in the brain and behavior that humans with Huntington's disease experience," said John Harding, a primate resources official at the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.

Using so-called viral vector technology, the researchers transferred the Huntington's gene into a monkey egg cell. After using in vitro fertilization, the egg grew into a four-cell embryo and was then placed in the womb of a female monkey acting as a surrogate mother.

Of the five baby monkeys born using this process, two died within about a day, another one died in about a month and two are still living at age 10 months, according to Anthony Chan of the Yerkes center and Emory University School of Medicine,

One of the two surviving monkeys has developed symptoms including involuntary movements of the hands and face, Chan said. The other has no symptoms of the disease yet but may develop them later, he added.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Chimp Mugsy Euthanized At Knoxville Zoo

mugsy chimpMugsy, the hand-raised ape who recently asserted himself as leader of the Knoxville Zoo’s chimpanzee troupe, has died. He would have been 18 next month.

Zookeepers noticed the usually active ape was lethargic and often resting on his belly earlier this week. On Thursday he was taken to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Doctors found part of Mugsy’s intestine had telescoped into an adjacent portion and that he suffered a perforated, damaged bowel.

Doctors operated on Mugsy and removed part of his bowel. While the prognosis was not good, the ape was young, otherwise healthy, very strong and extremely feisty.

“He had everything going for him (to recover),” Lisa New, the zoo’s director of animal collections for mammals and birds. “The vets wanted to give him every fighting change.”

Mugsy returned the zoo in essentially a drug-induced coma so that he could receive the intravenous antibiotics and other medications. At the zoo clinic he was attended round-the-clock for more than 24 hours. But while many of the ape’s other vital signs stayed stable, his kidneys began to fail.

Because of the animal’s progressing renal failure, doctors and zoo personnel made the decision to euthanize Mugsy Friday afternoon.

The intestinal problem, medically called an intussuception, is “a very rare thing, especially for an adult animal that has not been sick,” New said.

Intelligent and personable, Mugsy grew up at the zoo. He arrived as a 1-year-old in 1991 from the Los Angeles Zoo. Four days later, 6-month-old male chimp Lu arrived from the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Fla.

Since their ape mothers couldn’t care for them at other zoos, Mugsy and Lu were reared together by zookeepers in Knoxville. They became inseparable, within their own circle and in the eyes of many zoo visitors. Over the years, zookeepers worked successfully to introduce and integrate the pair into the whole chimp troupe.

Over the last nine months, Mugsy asserted himself as the unlikely leader of the zoo’s Chimp Ridge. Last year, the zoo brought in the male Jimbo from the Cleveland Zoo. A proven leader, Jimbo was expected to be a role model to Lu and Mugsy.

But what the humans expected didn’t happen. Jimbo became the butt of ape aggression, often lead by the female apes. And Mugsy – who as a youngster once cowered in a corner and rocked when adult apes banged on his exhibit glass – stepped up as the leader.

His death leaves a void in the eight-chimp troupe. It is expected that Jimbo, who had already been challenging the young male in recent weeks, will become the alpha ape.

Zookeepers brought Mugsy’s body back to Chimp Ridge Friday so the other chimps could have closure, New said. The females Debbie, Julie and Daisy, who have lived with Mugsy, were quiet. Jimbo stared attentively as Mugsy’s corpse through the exhibit mesh. Lu was visually shaken and vocal.

The ape’s death is also difficult for the keepers who have worked with the personable creature for years. This is the second primate death at the zoo within months; the elderly gorilla BiBi died Christmas Day.

Mugsy was also a favorite with zoo staff from maintenance workers to housekeepers. Workers often took lunch breaks at Chimp Ridge to visit with Mugsy.

“He is just one of the favorites; he just connected with so many regular people,” New said.

Mugsy also enjoyed getting a reaction from visitors. And at more than 160 pounds, he could make quite an impression.

“I think he has given many children nightmares,” New said. “He would hit the (chimp exhibit) glass and they would jump.”

The zoo has set up an address for those who wish to express their sympathy to keepers and Mugsy’s caregivers are Knoxville Zoo; Attn: Thoughts for Mugsy; Knoxville Zoo; P.O. Box 6040; Knoxville, TN 37914.

Amy McRary may be reached at 865-342-6437.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Surgeon Operates To Rescue Chimp With Rare Deformity

janetAn orthopaedic surgeon at the University of Liverpool has performed a groundbreaking operation on a chimp in Cameroon to correct a deformity more commonly seen in dogs.

The three year-old chimp called Janet was rescued from the Cameroon pet trade last year and now lives in a chimpanzee reserve supported by the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund. Janet was unable to climb and had difficulty walking because a bone in her forearm - the ulna - had stopped growing.

It is thought that her condition, known as angular limb deformity, is a congenital problem, but could also have been caused or aggravated by being chained at the wrist by traders. This forced the arm's radius to grow in a circular manner making her arm severely bent. Vets have seen the deformity in dogs before but never in chimpanzees and were called in to assess Janet's condition.

Rob Pettitt, orthopaedic surgeon at the University's Small Animal Teaching Hospital, said: "Surgery to correct the condition in dogs is less complex than the procedure in chimps. In dogs bone tissue stops growing early in life, so once the limb is straightened there is little time for the deformity to recur and interfere with bone development. In chimps and humans however, the areas of growth at the end of long bones can stay open for years, so there is plenty of time for the condition to return. We therefore sought the advice of specialists at Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt orthopaedic hospital at Oswestry - to make sure we protected any growth left in Janet's limb.

"The first step was to remove the far end of the ulna, which had become compacted due to the continued growth of the radius. A 14mm triangular section of bone was then removed from the radius in order to straighten the limb and a bone plate was inserted into the radius to secure the two ends of the bone."

Selling chimps as pets is illegal but rife on the black market in Cameroon. Adult chimpanzees are slaughtered for their meat and the young chimps are then taken away and sold as pets.

Rachel Hogan, manager of the chimpanzee reserve in Cameroon, said: "Janet is recovering well and has now rejoined her group at the reserve. She has been undergoing physiotherapy so that she can learn how to use the limb properly. She is made to grip a ball a few times a day and undo bottle tops to exercise her wrist. The X-rays show the surgery was a complete success."

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Florida And California Orangutans Both Escape Zoo Cages

brunoTwo orangutans, one at the Los Angeles Zoo and another at Florida's Busch Gardens, caused a stir by trying to escape their enclosures, officials said.

The Los Angles Zoo's 29-year-old orangutan, Bruno, prompted zoo officials to send about 3,000 patrons to the exits Saturday after he punctured the netting around his enclosure and wandered into an area near his cage, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Zoo workers said they were able to peacefully sedate Burno and prevent him from having contact with the public.

In a separate incident, a female orangutan at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., caused the Jungala exhibit to be closed down Saturday when she scaled the windows of her holding area, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post reported.

Keepers said they used snacks to persuade the orangutan to go into her cage as patrons were ordered to leave the vicinity. The Post said no patrons came into contact with the simian.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, May 16, 2008

Baby Gorilla Born At Calgary Zoo

gorilla bornZuri the gorilla is once again a mom, and this time, nobody is going to mess with her baby. The Calgary Zoo's newest baby gorilla was born this morning at 3 a.m.

The birth is good news for Zuri, a Western Lowland gorilla who suffered the loss of a different baby in August 2006. Her infant gorilla lived only 12 days, because Zuri's half-sister took the baby from her but had no milk to nurse it.

Back then, Zuri was the lowest ranking gorilla in the troop and lacked the confidence to grab her child back. Now, it's a different story.

"The troop dynamics have changed drastically since the last birth two years ago and Zuri is now the most dominant female in the group," said zoo keeper Les Stegenga.

Gorilla keepers, veterinary staff and father Kakinga, a silverback gorilla, are keeping a watchful eye on Zuri and her newborn. The exhibit building is closed for a day or two to maintain a quiet atmosphere for the gorillas, zoo staff say.

"We could not be more pleased with the way things are going in this initial phase," said zoo keeper Garth Irvine.

The zoo's cycle of life and death has seen staff dealing with both joy and sorrow this week. The loss of 40 cownose rays - a devastation that has wiped out all but three rays from the entire aquatic exhibit since Sunday - has cast a gloomy pall over the zoo.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Climbing As Easy As Walking For Smaller Primates

primatesSmaller primates expend no more energy climbing than they do walking, Duke University researchers have found. This surprising discovery may explain the evolutionary edge that encouraged the tiny ancestors of modern humans, apes and monkeys to climb into the trees about 65 million years ago and stay there.

The researchers compared the energy consumed by five different primate species while negotiating vertical and horizontal treadmills. Their work appears in the May 16 issue of the journal Science.

"We assumed it would be more energetically expensive for all of them to climb than to walk, so this finding was unexpected," said Jandy Hanna, a faculty member at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg who was a Duke graduate student at the time of the study. "There's this longstanding assumption that it should cost more to go up," she added.

Hanna had to design and build a novel climbing treadmill -- essentially a loop of rope around two pulleys -- to measure the animals' efforts. As the animals moved at their highest sustainable speed, sensors measured oxygen level changes within a chamber to derive the primates' energy consumption.

While climbing was not significantly more demanding for heftier primates than lighter ones, "the energetic cost of walking decreased with size," said Timothy Griffin, a medical instructor at the Duke Medical Center's Orthopaedic Bioengineeing Laboratory. Consequently, species weighing more than half a kilogram (about 1 pound) may have more incentive to walk than to climb. But for those weighing less, "there was no difference," he added.

The common assumption is that a transition to life in the trees helped lead to modern primates and our own up-right, two-legged walking.

Scientists think our earliest primate ancestors, which were only the size of large rats, underwent a number of fundamental evolutionary changes as they adapted to moving and feeding on thin branches of trees 65 million years, said Daniel Schmitt, a Duke associate professor of biological anthropology and anatomy who was Hanna's doctoral dissertation advisor. "Those changes included developing grasping hands with nails instead of claws," Schmitt said. "They were climbing up into the canopy and staying there. What we have shown is that they could have made this shift into a rich environment with insects and fruits without increased energetic cost."

The eight primates evaluated for energy consumption during climbing and walking were the slender loris (Loris tardigradus), fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius), pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus), Bolivian squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensus) and mongoose lemur (Eulemur mongoz). The squirrel monkey studies were done at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, and the others at the Duke University Lemur Center.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Zoo Keeper Attacked By Angry Ape

vicky apeA keeper at Blackpool Zoo was attacked by an ape that had escaped from its enclosure.
The female staff member was in a corridor in the ape house when Vicky – a 24-year-old orang-utan – snapped.

She bit the keeper on the arm and foot. An ambulance was called to the East Park Drive attraction and took the injured woman to hospital for emergency treatment while fellow staff coaxed Vicky back into her den.

The keeper, who has worked for the zoo for five years, was kept in hospital for three days following the incident on Friday.

Jude Rothwell, communications manager at Blackpool Zoo, said: "At this point it is not known how the orang-utan gained access to the corridor.

"A full investigation into the incident is being carried out and all personnel involved have, or will be interviewed.

"At no point was the public in any danger.

"The orang-utan was confined to the staff access corridor, inside the ape house, where a series of safety doors prevent access to outside the exhibit.

"Blackpool Zoo has protocols and procedures for all aspects of its operation and has an exemplary safety record. This is an isolated incident and until the investigation is completed, Blackpool Zoo is unable to comment further."

She added: "The keeper is doing very well and making a good recovery. She is now out of hospital."

Blackpool Council, the investigating authority, said health and safety officers were now interviewing members of staff. A spokesman said: "We can confirm that the council is investigating an accident in Blackpool Zoo which resulted in a member of staff being injured."

Vicky has been popular with visitors since she was born at the zoo in 1984.

She was rejected at birth by her mother and had to be hand reared. The ape even appeared on TV when she learned how to blow her own nose after catching flu.

Last week's incident came five months after another investigation was launched into the death of another orang-utan – an eight-year-old called Beau found in a moat.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Moment Of Monk Monkey Zen...

monk monkey
monk feeding monkey
monk and monkey
A South Korean young monk feeds to a golden snub-nosed monkey at the Everland Amusement Park in Yongin, south of Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 9, 2008. Young monks attend this event to celebrate the upcoming birthday of Buddha on May 12.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Psychological Stress Linked To Overeating, Monkey Study Shows

monkey researchResearchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have found socially subordinate female rhesus macaques over consume calorie-rich foods at a significantly higher level than do dominant females.

The study, which is available in the online edition of Physiology and Behavior, is a critical step in understanding the psychological basis for the sharp increase in obesity across all age groups since the mid-1970s. The study also is the first to show how food intake can be reliably and automatically measured, thus identifying the optimal animal model and setting for future obesity studies.

Because the relationship between diet, psychological stress and social and environmental factors is complex, Mark Wilson, PhD, chief of the Division of Psychobiology at Yerkes, and his research team set out to determine whether individuals chronically exposed to psychologically stressful environments over consume calorie-rich foods. To do this, they studied the feeding patterns of socially housed female rhesus macaques, which are organized by a dominance hierarchy that maintains group stability through continual harassment and threat of aggression. Such structure is a constant psychological stress to subordinates.

During the study, female macaques were given access to a sweet but low-fat diet and a high-fat diet for 21 days each. For a 21-day period between each test diet, the group was able to access standard monkey chow only. To track feeding patterns, automated feeders dispensed a pellet of either the low-fat or high-fat chow when activated by a microchip implanted in each female's wrist. Researchers found socially subordinate females consumed significantly more of both the low-fat diet and the high-fat diet throughout a 24-hour period, while socially dominant females ate significantly less than subordinate animals and restricted their feedings to daytime hours.

This difference in feeding behavior resulted in accelerated weight gain and an increase in fat-derived hormones in subordinate females. Dr. Wilson believes this may suggest profound changes in metabolism and the accumulation of body fat.

"Subordinates may be on a trajectory for metabolic problems. As this study shows, they prefer the high-fat diet and, as a result of the stress of being a subordinate, they have higher levels of the hormone cortisol. This may be involved in the redistribution of fat to visceral locations in the body, something that is clinically associated with type II diabetes metabolic syndrome," continued Dr. Wilson.

Using Yerkes' extensive neuroimaging capabilities, Dr. Wilson and his research team next will attempt to determine the neurochemical basis for why subordinate females overeat; specifically, whether appetite signals and brain areas associated with reward and satisfaction differ between subordinate and dominant females.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jocko's Memorial Held At Zoo, Mia Still Missing

jocko monkeyStaff and animal lovers at the Greater Vancouver Zoo said goodbye to Jocko, the spider monkey who was killed when thieves broke into his cage, in an emotional memorial service yesterday.

Children’s drawings that read “I’m sorry about your monkey” lined the empty cage and flowers were left in bunches on the ground.

Jocko died of a fractured skull and his mate, Mia, was kidnapped when someone broke into their cage with bolt cutters.

Jody Henderson, marketing and promotions manager for the zoo, said Jocko was very social and loving. His death has been tough on staff.

“There’s a deafening silence around the zoo now,” she said, breaking down in tears. “We all notice it and it’s because there’s somebody missing — our dear friend Jocko and his mate Mia.

“Each day I parked my car at the front of the zoo he was out chirping and greeting me. We will miss you forever, Jocko.”

Menita Prasad, an animal care keeper at the zoo, said Jocko recognized his keepers from 10 metres away and called out to them.

“He loved his toys and he loved looking through his kaleidoscope. When the keepers were in there cleaning out his enclosure he loved stealing tools,” she said, crying.

“I just can’t believe we’re never going to hear them call to us ever again.”

Staff also appealed to whomever took Mia to bring her home. The zoo will match public donations up to $3,000 as a reward for information leading to her safe return.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, May 09, 2008

Jocko Suffered Skull Fracture During Break-in

jockoA spider monkey that died following a break-in at the Greater Vancouver Zoo suffered a fracture to his skull, according to a preliminary necropsy.

Jody Henderson, a spokesperson for the zoo, said the results showed the monkey suffered internal hemorrhaging on the right side of his skull.

The monkey, called Jocko, was discovered dead on Wednesday morning by zoo keeper Cindy Hulst.

The culprits, who apparently used bolt cutters to break through the cage, also kidnapped Jocko's mate, Mia.

Henderson said the cutters may have been used to kill Jocko.

"Or he could have been thrown against the tree or tree house that's inside the enclosure," she told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday.

Henderson said she can't think of any motivation for the break-in.

"It just doesn't make sense," she said.

Meanwhile, zoo officials are hoping to get Mia back in their custody.

"The average person doesn't have a clue how to take care of an exotic monkey," said Henderson.

She also said Mia could be a danger to the public since she is traumatized and will likely be in a fighting mood.

Cpl. Peter Thiessen, a spokesperson for Langley RCMP, said the monkeys are valued at $5,000 each.

"Certainly it's not so much their value but clearly they're members of the family here," said Thiessen.

He said perhaps the thief wanted to sell the monkey on the black market or keep it as a personal pet.

Jocko and Mia have been residents at the zoo for about 15 years.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Jenny, Oldest Gorilla In Captivity, Turns 55 At Dallas Zoo

jenny the gorilla eating cakeA gorilla recognized as the world's oldest in captivity celebrated her 55th birthday by munching down a four-layer frozen fruit cake and banana leaf wrapped treats.

Jenny's caretakers at the Dallas Zoo say she's having a few joint issues and her eyesight isn't what it used to be but she still looks good for an old ape.

"It's a special milestone for us," said Todd Bowsher, curator of the zoo's Wilds of Africa exhibit. "It signifies that we've made great strides in veterinary care, nutrition and animal husbandry."

The International Species Information System, which maintains records on animals at 700 institutions around the world, said Jenny is the oldest gorilla in its database.

"I think it's amazing," said Kristen Lukas, curator of conservation and science at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in Ohio and the gorilla species survival plan coordinator for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. "I think it's a testament to the good care that she's received at the Dallas Zoo and also the resilience of gorillas in general."

Lukas said gorillas in the wild normally would live to age 30 or 35. Health care and protection from predators has extended the lifespan in zoos.

Of the roughly 360 gorillas in North American zoos, only four are over the age of 50. All of them are female. In addition to Jenny, Lukas noted Trudy at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas, Colo at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and Helen at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky.

Jenny gave birth in 1965 to a female named Vicki, who was sent to Alberta, Canada, at age 5. Zoo officials don't know any more about Vicki. They aren't sure why Jenny hasn't conceived again.

Jenny's keepers describe her as very sweet though a little bossy.

"If she doesn't want to go out on a certain day, she doesn't," Bowsher said. "But she really likes people."

There were plenty of them at the Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center Thursday, chowing down on giant sheets of chocolate and vanilla birthday cake as they peered at Jenny through the glass.

When keepers set out Jenny's berry-topped frozen cake in a forested clearing, she slowly approached. She scooped up the fruity treat with her right hand, dug into the middle of it with her left then sat down to savor the tasty yogurt-covered remains.

At one point she stood, turned her backside to the phalanx of photographers and cameramen then lumbered off to enjoy her meal in peace. She wasn't about to share with her primate peers.

"It's pretty amazing that the zoo where we live has the oldest gorilla that's known," said 8-year-old Ben Deming as he stared at Jenny.

Born in the wild of western central Africa in 1953, the exact date of her birth is unknown. Jenny lived with a family on the Cape Verde islands before the Dallas Zoo acquired her in 1957.

"I remember the day she arrived," said Nancy Hamon, 89, of Dallas, whose family bought the gorilla for the zoo and continues to be among its strongest supporters.

Jenny, a 213-pound Western lowland gorilla, is one of four gorillas at the zoo.

"It's a good time for the zoo," said Sean Greene, director of Community Relations for the Dallas Zoological Society.

He said the upbeat birthday party was a welcome contrast to the tragedy that occurred in 2004 when another gorilla, 13-year-old Jabari, broke out of his enclosure. The 300-pound ape went on a 40-minute rampage in which he snatched up a toddler with his teeth and attacked three other people before officers shot him.

So to what does Jenny attribute her longevity? She's not saying. But her vegetarian diet couldn't hurt: seeds, cereal and one of her favorites, banana peels.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Escaped Chimp Trashes Bar In Spain

One of two chimpanzees - mother and daughter - that escaped from the Oasis zoo in La Orotava (Tenerife) yesterday lunchtime went on to wreak havoc in the Los Rechazos bar nearby until it was recaptured after more than two hours by Guardia Civil officers.

Around twenty lunchtime customers were shocked when the chimp entered the bar at around 2pm - immediately running off into the kitchen where it burned itself before cutting its leg on a stainless steel shelving unit that was totally destroyed.

Resisting all attempts to restrain it, the startled creature continued on its destructive path, causing further damage, including a broken TV set.

The other chimp was quickly rounded up after officers spotted it on a roof terrace.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Spider Monkey Killed And One Missing From Vancouver Zoo Break-In

mia the monkeyJocko and Mia had been together for 15 years when someone brutally ended their love affair.

Staff at the Greater Vancouver Zoo were devastated Wednesday to find Jocko, a 17-year-old male spider monkey, lying dead inside the enclosure he shared with his longtime companion, Mia.

Mia, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. The 17-year-old female monkey with the bright blue eyes is presumed to have been stolen during an overnight break-in.

“We’re pretty much a wreck,” said zoo representative Jody Henderson of the mood at the facility Wednesday.

“They are our children, there is no doubt about it.”

The break-in is believed to have occurred sometime between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, when the primate zoo keeper made the grim discovery.

Henderson said it’s not clear how anyone got onto the zoo grounds, but added it appears the suspect or suspects headed directly to the primate cage.

Bolt cutters were used to cut a hole through the chainlink fence surrounding the monkeys’ outdoor enclosure.

The matter has been turned over to Langley RCMP, who continue to hunt for suspects in the case.

Cpl. Peter Thiessen said the motive for the break-in is unclear, but speculated the 20-pound female monkey may have been stolen as a pet or to be sold on the black market.

“This is a significant theft,” he said.

Spider monkeys — a threatened species native to South America — are worth about $5,000 each.

Henderson said neither Mia nor Jocko — who were born in captivity and acquired from an Ontario zoo — have been directly handled by their keepers, and are considered wild.

“Any kind of handling would have been done through the fence. As with all the animals here at the zoo, we try to keep the situation natural, as much as you can for a captive environment,” she said.

Spider monkeys are considered among the most intelligent of their species, and, though small in stature, are incredibly agile and fierce when protecting their young or mates.

That protective instinct may have led to Jocko’s death, said Henderson.

“If anybody came in that enclosure, there would definitely have been some form of aggression,” she said.

Thiessen said whoever broke into the monkey pen may have sustained scratches and cuts.

The cause of Jocko’s death is not yet known, and there were no overt signs of trauma to the body.

A necropsy has been scheduled for as soon as possible to help provide answers, said Henderson.

As for Mia’s fate, Henderson said staff remain extremely concerned.

Monkeys require specialized care, diet and activities to thrive, she said.

“You need to be educated in what you’re doing . . . the average person just wouldn’t have a clue what to do.”

Mia is described as having dark brown fur, with a light blond chest and steel-blue eyes. She is about a half-metre tall with a very long tail.

Henderson said anyone who spots Mia should call the zoo and not approach her because she has very sharp teeth and could attack because she is traumatized.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Monkey Picked Coffee Arrives At Vancouver Coffee Roasters

coffee picked coffeeVancouver's 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters have enlisted the aid of some unlikely workers in Southern India to help harvest the best coffee beans -- rhesus macaque monkeys.

The coffee critters, who work for peanuts, pick only the few sweetest beans from each plant, which they then store in their mouths for several hours while sucking on the "cherry" fruit before spitting out the inner bean.

A worker then collects the spat-out beans and they are cleaned and roasted, making his job slightly better than the person whose job it is to collect the Kopi Luwak -- Sumatran beans harvested from the droppings of civet cats.

"The wild monkeys seek out the sweetest cherries," president Vince

Piccolo explained yesterday after returning from a coffee conference in Minneapolis, Minn.

"It is like us eating an apricot and spitting out the pit. I find the coffee to be extremely sweet with low acidity."

Only four or five sacks of the masticated beans called Indian SL 795 Devon Estates Arabica were produced and Piccolo got his hands on three of them, which he plans to serve as single-origin espresso and not blended with anything else.

The SL 795 will be available in the company's Kitsilano store at 2152 West 4th Ave. beginning tomorrow.

"It is only in limited amounts," said Piccolo. "This is a unique discovery and we want out customers to have great coffee."

Piccolo expects the 12-ounce bags, which sell for $25, to sell out quickly.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Rare Rhesus Twins Born At Safari Park

rhesus twinsA Rhesus monkey has given birth to twins at Longleat Safari Park, near Warminster.

Multiple births are extremely rare in primates and these are believed to be the first twins born at the Park.

Initially keepers thought the mother may simply have 'borrowed' one of the babies from another female but they're now convinced that both are hers.

Deputy head warden Ian Turner said: "In the past we have occasionally had instances where a baby has been picked up by another female - often an older sister - for a short period of time.

"However in this case she has been clearly seen suckling both babies over a period of weeks so we're as certain as we can be that they are twins.

"We're obviously keeping a very close eye on how they're all doing but at the moment she's coping well.

"Her major issues are getting around and, particularly, climbing trees. With a baby on both arms she's had to resort to shuffling but we're ensuring that she doesn't have to travel far to get her food and both of the youngsters appear fit and well," he added.

Rhesus monkeys have given their name to the rhesus antigens found in their blood in 1940, which has enabled doctors to determine different blood groups in humans.

Found throughout south east Asia and across the Indian subcontinent rhesus monkeys thrive in a wide variety of habitats and climates.

In some parts of India they are believed to be sacred with the result that they have lived in close contact with humans for countless centuries - particularly in and around Buddhist and Hindu temples.

Rhesus monkeys are extremely intelligent, naturally inquisitive animals which can learn to manipulate simple tools and distinguish colours and shapes.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rwanda Prepares For Newborn Gorilla Naming Ceremony

The government of Rwanda holds the fourth annual ceremony for naming newly born mountain gorillas next month. The occasion named-Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony- takes place on June 21st 2008.

On such occasion, thousands of people from Rwanda and several other nations gather at the foot of the Virunga Mountains to witness the occasion where specially invited guests name baby gorillas born in the wild misty mountains of Rwanda.

A news release from the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) which is organizing the ceremony on behalf of the government terms Kwita Izina ceremony as, “a conscious effort to celebrate conservation success and community development, as we strive to protect the remaining population of less than 800 mountain gorillas.”

This event was launched by the Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and his wife in 2005 by naming the first twin gorillas ever born in the wild. Since then, exciting arrays of local and international dignitaries have participated in this event including ambassadors accredited to Rwanda; international conservationists, individuals and organizations; Hollywood star Natalie Portman, officials from renowned TV channels such as Animal Planet, Discovery channel and business leaders among others.

Gorilla Tourism represents the best attraction in the Region. In Rwanda, the conservation of biodiversity has been a major concern since the colonial era, with the creation of the three national parks that harbour rich natural resources and exceptional tourist opportunities.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

50-Year-Old Gorilla Dies In Bwindi Park

nkuringo gorillaNkuringo, one of the oldest silverback mountain gorillas, is dead. Aged over 50, he was the leader of the Nkuringo group of 18 gorillas. His body was found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on April 28.

The chief warden of both Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks, Asa Kure Musinguzi, yesterday said Nkuringo died of old age on April 27.

“Gorillas have a life expectancy of 60 years. Mzee Nkuringo had lost most of his teeth and used to move slowly. These were signs of advanced age.”
A veterinary crew took some parts of Nkuringo’s body to ascertain the cause of his death, he added.

“The essential parts of his body are being studied in the government laboratory in Kampala and a report will be released soon.”

Nkuringo was buried last week, Musinguzi added.

“We wrapped his body in a polythene bag and lowered it into the grave. This is done to help researchers access it easily during investigations or studies,” the official said.

In a related development, a new-born gorilla was discovered as the park officials were searching for Nkuringo. “It is a blessing. There are now 18 members of the Nkuringo group although mzee is dead,” Kure added.

The sex of the baby could not established by press time because it was under tight security. The Nkuringo group was habituated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in 2002 for ecotourism.

In 2006, Zeus, a gorilla of the Kyaguriro group passed away at Bwindi.
Kyaguriro gorillas are habituated for research purposes.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Monday, May 05, 2008

Two Escaped Monkeys Captured In Florida

monkeys capturedFreedom has ended for two escaped Patas monkeys that escaped a wildlife sanctuary last week in Polk County.

A female monkey and her baby went into one of the set traps Thursday afternoon. There are still 13 others living in the woods north of Lakeland.

The monkeys were being kept on a small island surrounded by a moat at Safari Wild, a wildlife preserved owned by Lex Salisbury who also runs Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa.

The monkeys are not dangerous and anyone who sees the escapees is asked to call a hotline set up (813) 470-9307.

Story here.

Add to Technorati Favorites