Friday, August 29, 2008

Flood Damage At Great Ape Trust Reaches $1 Million

APE FLOOD1 of the largest great ape facilities in North America needs more than $1 million to recover from damage suffered in Iowa's record June floods.

Flooding at the 230-acre Great Ape Trust campus in Des Moines damaged two modular buildings that housed the trust's administrative offices as well as equipment in an ape research center. None of the apes were injured, and researchers were able to resume work within a week.

The campus is built in a floodplain donated by the city.

When it's completed, the Great Ape Trust is expected to be 1 of the first worldwide to include all four types of great ape - bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.

Some of the costs will be covered by insurance and the group is planning a fundraising effort to cover the remaining costs.

Story here.

Gorilla Has Sore Tooth Removed By Dentist

GORILLA dentistThis 28 st primate had to be sedated for two hours by specialist vet dentists during a successful operation to remove a painful three inch root.

Pertinax, a silverback Western gorilla, was said to be "understandably groggy" after the operation at Paignton Zoo in Devon.

He was treated by Dr Peter Kertesz, one of only a few specialist zoo dentists in the world, who has worked on exotic species including whales, pandas and elephants.

He said: "Animals or people, it's all the same - they need treatment, they get treatment. The scale is what varies - and the location. It is all about teamwork.

"It is a very serious business. The health and sometimes the life of a rare creature is in your hands."

Neil Bemment, curator of mammals at the zoo, added: "Pertinax had a broken canine. Peter had to remove the root, which was a good three inches long."

Pertinax is the 25-year-old leader of the zoo's bachelor group of gorillas and was treated at the attraction.

Dr Kertesz has a dental practice in London and his first experience of animal dentistry was when he looked at a cat for a vet in 1978.

Story here.

Endangered Monkey Species Thriving in Cambodia

langurSurprisingly large populations of two globally threatened primates have been discovered in a protected area in Cambodia, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reported on Thursday.

The report counted 42,000 black-shanked douc langurs along with 2,500 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons in Cambodia's Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, an estimate that represents the largest known populations for both species in the world.

WCS scientists conducted the surveys with the Cambodian government across an area of 789 square km within a wider landscape of 3,000 square km. The scientists believe total populations within the wider landscape may be considerably greater.

"Now we must put into place the management to truly protect these populations and apply the approach to other regions where primates are in trouble," said John Robinson, an executive vice president at WCS.

The two primate species are found in much lower numbers at other sites in Cambodia and in Vietnam. Prior to the recent discovery in Seima, the largest known populations were believed to be in adjacent Vietnam, where black-shanked douc langurs and yellow-cheeked crested gibbons hover at 600 and 200 respectively. The total population of the two species remains unknown.

According to the WCS, a combination of factors account for such high numbers of primates: successful long-term management of the conservation area; cessation of logging activities; a nation-wide gun confiscation program implemented in the 1990s; and habitat where there is plenty of food.

Story here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kansas City Chimp, Jimmie, Dies At Age 40

jimmie chimpJimmie the chimpanzee, a fixture of the Kansas City Zoo for 40 years, died Wednesday morning in the animals’ holding barn.

Generations of Kansas Citians grew up with Jimmie, who in recent years spent much of his outdoor time near the glass of the chimpanzee exhibit watching people watch him. He was distinctive because of pink coloring around his mouth and his gray hair.

Randy Wisthoff, zoo director, said Jimmie began his day as usual and took his heart medications.

“He was fine and alert earlier in the morning, and at some point he went over and laid down, and that was it,” Wisthoff said.

The zoo will do a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

About 41, Jimmie was the old male of the zoo’s 16-member chimpanzee troop, which was the largest in the United States. Kansas City and the Los Angeles Zoo now each have 15 chimpanzees.

Jimmie had sired 19 offspring since coming to the Kansas City Zoo in 1968 after being captured in Liberia. Among his descendants is a female chimp born one year ago next Monday.

The zoo planned a celebration of that chimp’s first birthday this weekend but now is also setting up a memorial fund in Jimmie’s name to benefit chimpanzee conservation efforts in Africa.

Jan Armstrong, who took care of infant animals at the zoo when Jimmie came here, said he was brought in as part of a “Dr. Dolittle” promotional event for Halls on the Country Club Plaza and then placed with the zoo. Armstrong recalled taking Jimmie out for show-and-tells in the community, such as at nursing homes.

She also recalled an incident that occurred when Jimmie shared quarters in the old ape house with three female chimpanzees also brought from Africa. He was playing and spinning around in the outdoor part of the exhibit when he fell into the water moat. A docent reported that the female chimpanzees linked hands and tried to pull him out of the water. A human later pulled him out.

Jan Armstrong and her husband, Jack, who became zoo director, helped to nurse him back to health. When Armstrong visited the zoo to see Jimmie earlier this year, the chimp remembered her.

“He would come up to the window,” she said. “The keepers could tell that he recognized me.”

Of the three female chimps from Jimmie’s era, Patty and Blackie are still here. Crazy died a few years ago.

Story here.

Escapee Monkey Lured Home With A Peanut

mintyMinty the runaway monkey was no hard nut to crack as she was lured back to her home at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve by a single peanut.

The monkey escaped from the Christchurch reserve while being transferred between enclosures last Wednesday.

She was spotted up a tree on Saturday morning by a man walking his labrador dog in a park 500m from Minty's Belfast home.

Willowbank director Kathy Rangiwananga said that when a keeper offered Minty a peanut, the capuchin leapt onto the keeper's shoulder and was popped munching on her prize into a cage.

Rangiwananga said the little runaway was probably starving after being away from home for three cold nights.

"Minty could have found food in vegetable gardens or food scraps but she's used to having her food put on for her, so it's likely she wouldn't have had anything to eat since she ran away."

Rangiwananga said Minty's movements during her three nights of freedom remained a mystery but she would have had to cross a river.

Veterinary staff had to sedate Minty after her recapture to check she was fine and insert a microchip. She was placed back in the capuchin enclosure yesterday afternoon.

One of Minty's keepers, Kirsten Ferlazzo, said the monkey was happy to be home and lapping up the attention from relieved staff.

"She hasn't gelled totally back with the others yet. There's been no cuddles, but they seem happy to have her back and haven't been aggressive," Ferlazzo said.

"There were a lot of sleepless nights while she was missing but now she's back, we're very, very happy."

Story here.

Yerkes Researchers Find Monkeys Enjoy Giving to Others

primates givingResearchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have shown capuchin monkeys, just like humans, find giving to be a satisfying experience. This finding comes on the coattails of a recent imaging study in humans that documented activity in reward centers of the brain after humans gave to charity. Empathy in seeing the pleasure of another’s fortune is thought to be the impetus for sharing, a trait this study shows transcends primate species.

The study is available online in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Frans de Waal, PhD, director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes Research Center, and Kristi Leimgruber, research specialist, led a team of researchers who exchanged tokens for food with eight adult female capuchins. Each capuchin was paired with a relative, an unrelated familiar female from her own social group or a stranger (a female from a different group). The capuchins then were given the choice of two tokens: the selfish option, which rewarded that capuchin alone with an apple slice; or the prosocial option, which rewarded both capuchins with an apple slice. The monkeys predominantly selected the prosocial token when paired with a relative or familiar individual but not when paired with a stranger.

"The fact the capuchins predominantly selected the prosocial option must mean seeing another monkey receive food is satisfying or rewarding for them" said de Waal. "We believe prosocial behavior is empathy based. Empathy increases in both humans and animals with social closeness, and in our study, closer partners made more prosocial choices. They seem to care for the welfare of those they know" continued de Waal.

de Waal and his research team next will attempt to determine whether giving is self-rewarding to capuchins because they can eat together or if the monkeys simply like to see the other monkey enjoying food.

The research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and by the Yerkes base grant from the National Institutes of Health. Reference: "Giving is self-rewarding for monkeys" Frans B. M. de Waal; Kristin Leimgruber; Amanda R. Greenberg, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For more than seven decades, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, has been dedicated to conducting essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and nonhuman primates. Today, the center, as one of only eight National Institutes of Health--funded national primate research centers, provides leadership, training and resources to foster scientific creativity, collaboration and discoveries. Yerkes-based research is grounded in scientific integrity, expert knowledge, respect for colleagues, an open exchange of ideas and compassionate, quality animal care.

Within the fields of microbiology and immunology, neuroscience, psychobiology and sensory-motor systems, the center’s research programs are seeking ways to: develop vaccines for infectious and noninfectious diseases, such as AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease; treat cocaine addiction; interpret brain activity through imaging; increase understanding of progressive illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; unlock the secrets of memory; determine behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy; address vision disorders; and advance knowledge about the evolutionary links between biology and behavior.

The goal of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center is to view great apes as a window to the human past by studying their behavior, cognition, neuroanatomy, genes and reproduction in a noninvasive manor. Another goal is to educate the public about apes and to help guarantee their continued existence in the wild.

Story here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rogue Monkey Evades Police In Tokyo Train Station

monkey tokyo stationThe animal was first noticed at 9.40am hopping around near the electronic ticket gates in the Shibuya Station in the middle of the Japanese capital.

Not content with its place by the gates, however, it darted downstairs towards the entrance to another train line before scaling a pillar and flitting between the ticket machines with officials in hot pursuit.

Bored with the game, it climbed onto an information board and dozed for a couple of hours while commuters and railway staff looked on.

Television pictures showed the primate, two-foot tall and brown, sitting tranquilly atop the board and contemplating the watching crowd.

"It's a monkey, it's not like it did anything bad," said a police spokesman.

A little later railway staff and police cleared the area to being their attempt to catch the runaway monkey.

Having surrounded the information board with green netting, they hoped to pounce on the animal as soon as it leapt from its perch.

But when it finally jumped down, it slipped through the police cordon, darted into the crowd and disappeared - apparently out of the station.

"I've heard of mice before, but nothing like this," said a Tokoy Metro spokesman.

Story here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Frank, Silverback Gorilla At The Louisville Zoo, Euthanized

FRANK the gorillaOne of the best fathers ever to spend time with his children at the Louisville Zoo has passed away.

Frank the gorilla, 44, was euthanized on Thursday after years of living with medical problems. He had lived at the Louisville Zoo since the 2002 opening of its Gorilla Forest and had been treated by a team of specialists for problems including heart disease and chronic arthritis.

"The medications we were using just basically discontinued working and he was in a lot of pain," said Louisville Zoo animal curator Steve Wing.

Frank had been either unwilling or unable to move since earlier this week, Wing said. Gorillas usually live to be about 25 in the wild, with age-related health problems setting in at around 30, he said.

But the big silverback leaves a strong legacy. He fathered 14 children of his own, Wing said, and helped to raise countless others.

"I think he was definitely a favorite here in Louisville because of the kids he produced and how he interacted with the kids," Wing said.

Frank spent most of his life at the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo after being born wild in Cameroon.

Because of his patience with young gorillas, many were able to be introduced to the community at six to seven months old, rather than up to a year, which is more common.

"He was never aggressive with them, even though they were not his own," said Dave Bernier, Curator of Mammals at Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo. "He could keep order just by looking over his shoulder."

For his firm, loving hand, Chicago Tribune Magazine named Frank its father of the year in 1998.

Frank's health problems began during his time in Chicago. He received physical therapy, which he didn't care for, Bernier said.

"After a while, he just wouldn't bend his leg," he said.

But Frank adapted to his health problems quickly, Bernier said, and was able to climb and move around well. Frank also had orthopedic surgery performed by the team surgeon for the Chicago Bulls.

"They get better medical care than I do," Bernier said. "I couldn't get a Bulls' doctor to operate on me."

In Louisville, condolences are coming in from other professionals and zoo visitors, and Wing expects more, he said.

"Even though we have known that he's an older gorilla, I think we're still a little stunned," he said. "We're getting a lot of e-mails wishing us the best."

Story here.

Hercules The Gorilla Dies At Dallas Zoo

HERCULES GORILLAA gorilla named Hercules who once bit a keeper at the Dallas Zoo but remained popular among visitors has died at the grand old age of 43.

The Western lowland silverback died Wednesday after a medical procedure for spinal disease, zoo officials said.

"Hercules was almost 44 years old and for gorillas that are in their 40s and 50s every day is a blessing," said Chuck Siegel, the zoo's deputy director for animal management.

The gorilla had been born in the wild. He arrived in Dallas in 1993 from the Baltimore Zoo.

Hercules seemed to enjoy human visitors, especially children, zoo spokeswoman Susan Eckert told The Dallas Morning News.

"He'd look at you from the side of his eyes, which is good gorilla manners," she said. "In the gorilla world, you don't make full eye contact. He seemed to enjoy looking at the children through the window. He'd sit there and look at them and sometimes put his hands out."

Things weren't so tranquil in 1998, when Hercules made headlines for biting keeper Jennifer McClurg and dragging her down a corridor, seriously injuring her, and then raiding a stash of goodies in a kitchen. Keepers shot him with a tranquilizer dart.

A zoo spokeswoman said at the time that afterward, callers "usually want to know how Jennifer is and they want to know in the same breath how Hercules is."

The zoo has five remaining gorillas, including Jenny, who at about 55 is the oldest gorilla on record in the world, Siegel said.

In 2004, Dallas police shot and killed a 13-year-old gorilla named Jabari at the zoo after it jumped over a wall, bit three people and snatched up a toddler by his teeth during a 40-minute rampage. The enclosure was remodeled and the city paid a $10,000 fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Story here.

Gorilla Grieves Over Death Of Baby

gorilla mourns death babyIt is a picture of pain that made mothers of all species cry - a grieving gorilla named Gana holding her dead baby in her hands.

Gana's traumatic ordeal began when her three-month-old son, Claudio, suddenly died in her arms.

Holding him like a doll, Gana stared at her son, apparently puzzled by his lolling head and limp arms.

Gently, she shook her boy.

Gently, she stroked his hair.

There was no response.

A crowd gathered outside Gana's compound at the zoo in Munster, Germany, drawn by the unfolding tragedy, but Gana only had eyes for her son.

She prodded her boy. She caressed her boy. She seemed to be trying to will him back to life.

After a while, Gana gently placed Claudio on her back and slowly circled the compound, stopping every few steps to see if her boy was breathing again. Claudio gave no sign of life.

So Gana, age 11, resumed her lonesome pacing while all around her hearts were breaking.

Hundreds of humans bore witness to Gana's torment on Saturday - and many of them were crying.

"Many of the visitors were terribly shocked," zoo director Joerg Adler told The Daily Mail of London.

Adler said they think a heart defect killed Claudio, but they're not sure because Gana refused to let anybody near his body.

"In the wild, a gorilla mother can keep hold of a dead baby for weeks," Adler said.

Still, until this moment there was little evidence to suggest Gana would be a devoted mother.

Last year, for reasons still unclear, Gana rejected her six-week-old daughter, Mary Zwo, now the star attraction at the Stuttgart zoo.

Gana and Claudio had an unbreakable bond. And they showed the world that love and loss are universal.

While lions eat their dead, many other species have been known to mourn a dead comrade.

Dogs and cats often become depressed after the death of one of their own; dolphins spend weeks not eating or making distressed sounds and elephants become agitated when they see a elephant corpse.

"This, perhaps, is one of the greatest gifts that a zoo can bestow - to show animals are very much like ourselves, and feel elation and pain," Adler said. "Gana lost a child, but I think in that loss, she taught people here so much."

Story here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chimp Escapes, Attacks, Bites Intern At Chimps Inc.

chimp bitesA chimpanzee was contained after it got out of its cage and bit an intern Friday, deputies said.

Deputies and technicians from the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office were called in to help Bend firefighters at Chimps Inc. after a chimpanzee escaped its cage and attacked a worker, Sgt. Bryan Husband said.

Kristen Howard, 23, of Glendale, Ariz., suffered non-life-threatening injuries when someone forgot to latch the cage of a 19-year-old, 120-pound chimp, he said.

Howard, who is in the process of completing an internship at the company, was treated by firefighters after she was bitten and then driven to a hospital, Husband said.

The chimpanzee hasn't had any similar incidents in the 10 years it has been at Chimps Inc. and was quickly put back in its cage, Husband said.

Story here.

Experts Called In To Help Track Moe The Chimp

A couple of experts known for capturing exotic animals are traveling to Southern California this week to help search for Moe the missing chimpanzee.

Michael McCasland, a friend of Moe's owners, said Sunday that the experts will arrive Friday or Saturday and offer guidance on how best to find Moe.

"These people are not neophytes on this; they're very good at what they do," he said. "I personally know one of the gentlemen has actually tracked down primates."

The 42-year-old animal escaped June 27 from his cage at Jungle Exotics, a sanctuary near Devore that trains animals for TV and movies. He is believed to be in the nearby San Bernardino National Forest, and volunteers have placed chimp food and water at feeding stations in hopes of luring him out of hiding.

"We think there's a strong chance he's still in this mile-by-mile quadrant," McCasland said. "He's just hunkered down somewhere near water and he's got some fruits and berries nearby."

McCasland said Moe's owners, St. James and LaDonna Davis, of West Covina, don't want to reveal details on the exotic animal finders. The experts offered their assistance shortly after Moe escaped, McCasland said.

Story here.

Friday, August 08, 2008

32 Lab Monkeys Accidentally Heated to Death At Charles River Laboratories

charles riverOfficials at an animal testing facility in Sparks say they have improved security and training policies and added new alarm systems after 32 monkeys died May 28 from overheating.

“This was an isolated incident that occurred in a single room at our quarantine facility and no other primates were affected,” Amy Cianciaruso, a spokeswoman for Charles River Laboratories, said in an e-mail. “The death of these primates is a terrible and unfortunate tragedy.”

The primate deaths came to light Thursday when local animal rights activist Coral Amende was tipped off by a Charles River employee.

Cianciaruso said the incident was not made public because the company is concerned for employee safety after the “increased level of extremist activity targeting individuals involved in biomedical research.”

She said the company immediately reported the incident to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An official from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the organization filed a complaint with the USDA in July after hearing from an anonymous whistle blower that the animals had died.

“The USDA notified us that it had opened an investigation in response to our complaint,” said Kathy Guillermo, director of the laboratory investigations department at PETA.

The USDA could not be reached for comment.

“At this time the USDA is reviewing the incident,” Cianciaruso said. “Nothing of this nature has ever occurred at any Charles River facility in our more than 60-year history.”

Charles River has operated in the area since 1992 with a facility in Sparks and opened another in late 2007 in Reno.

The monkeys that died were Cynomolgus primates, also known as the crab-eating Macaque or long-tailed Macaque, most commonly used in drug development research, Cianciaruso said.

She said research primates come from a variety of geographic sources but those that died were bred in China for scientific research. They are 2 to 4 years old when received and had been in Sparks for less than two weeks.

The CDC requires imported research primates to undergo a quarantine period to ensure they are healthy before use in research studies.

The overheating in quarantine was caused by “several human errors,” despite preventive measures in place, Cianciaruso said. She said an alarm system was in place “but human error failed this system.”

“As a result, corrective measures were identified, implemented and tested,” she said. “These preventive measures provide for multiple redundancies that will preclude the recurrence of a similar event.

“Specifically, we have enhanced security and training policies and we have implemented new state-of-the-art alarm systems.”

She said the company is confident both facilities in Northern Nevada are being operated with “commitment to humane care and the regulatory guidelines that govern our work.”

Amende described the deaths as “horrific.”

“Charles River in general as a corporation has a bad reputation as far as animal abuse goes,” she said. “Thirty-two monkeys is a lot and why on earth weren’t they removed before they died from the heat?”

Amende said the company has called other incidents at the Sparks laboratory accidental.

“I don’t know how long you can hide behind the word ‘accident’ when these things happen,” she said. “Obviously business is not being taken care of at the Sparks lab.”

From Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2006, two monkeys snagged fingers in the wiring and a dolly of their cages in the Sparks facility while being moved. Their finertips were amputated and the tip of the tail of a third monkey was cut and treated.

“Charles River has an alarming record,” Guillermo said. “I can only imagine what those animals endured as they died, literally heated to death.”

Story here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Newborn Orangutan At Lowry Park Zoo

dee dee newborn orangutanA newborn orangutan was welcomed into the world late afternoon Sunday, August 3, at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. Although this is the fourth baby for experienced mom "Dee Dee," it is her first to be born on exhibit.

"As a fourth-time mom, Dee Dee was clearly at ease with this birth, delivering quickly in her own way and time, which for her was outdoors," said Angela Belcher, assistant curator of primates. "Josie," another adult female orangutan, helped to clean the baby up after the birth.

The zoo's primate keepers have monitored Dee Dee and the newborn closely since birth. Dee Dee has been given access to the outdoor exhibit; however, keepers report that she has alternated between her den and outdoors with the infant, resting and nursing. The new baby has been named "RanDee" in honor of dad, "Rango" and mom Dee Dee.

Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is currently home to five Bornean orangutans including dominant male Rango, the oldest living male Bornean orangutan in an AZA-accredited facility, adult female Josie with juvenile daughter "Hadiah," and Dee Dee with new baby RanDee. Previous offspring have relocated to other facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP)

Native to Malaysia and Indonesia, the longhaired red orangutan can be found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Orangutan (pronounced oran-gu-tan with no "g" on the end) is a Malay word that means "man of the forest." The species is considered endangered in the wild due to habitat destruction and the pet trade.

Like humans, Bornean orangutans have gestation periods of approximately nine months. A female becomes sexually mature at age six to seven and may only give birth once every six years.

Babies are born with a thin layer of red hair and cream-colored skin around the face and abdominal region, weighing only about 2-3 pounds. Orangutan offspring are dependent on their mothers for about seven to 10 years, staying close by for comfort long after they are weaned.

The new baby will ride on Dee Dee's chest and back for the first few years and will nurse for three to five years, on average. She will grow to be approximately 70-80 pounds. As one of the world's largest primates, the orangutan is second only to the gorilla in size.

"Dee Dee is a great mom, and very experienced," noted Belcher. "Although he won't help much with the infant at this stage, we are fortunate that Rango is a good father — very patient and tolerant of offspring."

The Bornean orangutans at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo are one of more than 40 species in the zoo's SSP, a cooperative breeding and conservation program managed by AZA to carefully maintain a healthy, self-sustaining captive population.

Lowry Park Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, one mile west of I-275 (exit 48). The Zoo is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours on select nights during the summer. Parking is free. Visit or call (813) 935-8552 for more information.

Story here.

Escaped Monkey Stops Traffic In Ireland

monkey trafficThere were surreal scenes at rush hour on the N11 as amazed commuters left their cars to try to capture an escaped monkey.

Traffic on the entire south-bound lane of the dual carriageway came to a standstill as bemused drivers watched the ape frolicking in the middle of the road.

Gina, a-three-year-old Capuchin who lives at nearby Copsewood Aviary outside Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow made her bid for freedom as morning traffic peaked.

Some quick-thinking drivers tried to lure her with bananas, but Gina easily gave them the slip until her worried keeper arrived on the scene with gardai.

Photographer Brian Kitson, who captured the scene in this picture, described the chaos when motorists realised what was happening.

“People seemed quite confused and befuddled to see this monkey on the road”, he said.

“They couldn't believe it. But it restored my faith in humanity. They could have just ploughed on, but they didn't, they stopped and got out, and tried to lure her with a banana. She was too fast for them and got away.

“There were three to four people actively involved in trying to rescue Gina but they were unsuccessful because she was a bit quicker than they were.

“The monkey was having the craic at first, she was delighted to be out, but then as people upped their efforts to catch her, she evaded capture. But she seemed to be enjoying her moment of freedom”, Brian said.

Gardai were on the scene within minutes, as well as Gina's keeper.

He chased her on a quad bike and caught her with a net.

Story here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Orangutan Drowns In German Zoo

orangutanStaff at a Hamburg zoo say one of their orangutans died needlessly after a visitor broke park rules against feeding animals. The animal, they claim, drowned in pursuit of a bread roll that had been lobbed into her enclosure.

An orangutan drowned in a German zoo on Wednesday after she fell into a water basin while trying to fish out a bread roll a visitor had thrown into her enclosure.

Zookeepers at the Tierpark Hagenbeck in Hamburg rushed to Leila's aid, but by the time they had pulled her out of the water she was dead.

Chief zookeeper Walter Wolters said a visitor was responsible for the drowning. "Leila wanted to get the roll, but instead fell into the water and drowned," he told German news agency DPA.

The orangutan, which was 10 years old, had lived in the Hamburg zoo since birth. Wolters said all the zoo's staff were very upset by Leila's death. "We are especially devastated by her death, because orangutans are a very endangered species and Leila was a valuable breeding animal," he told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.

The visitor who threw the roll has not yet been identified. The zoo forbids the feeding of animals and has signs up that expressly remind visitors of the ban. Staff are now considering whether to file charges with police.

Story here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Primates Under Threat Of Extinction Due To Mankind

primate extinctionAlmost half the world's primate species are under threat of extinction because they are being eaten or having their homes destroyed by Man.

Monkeys, lemurs, langurs and great apes are among the primates under threat of eradication in a review of all 634 species, apart from human beings.

It was found that 303 of them face the possibility of extinction in the wild, and for 69 species the threat is so severe that they were classified as critically endangered.

Habitat destruction was identified as the single most damaging cause of decline, but for some animals the threat posed by being hunted and eaten by people was the most significant factor.

Among the animals most likely to end up on someone's table are: the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey and Delacour's langur, in Vietnam; the golden monkey and L'Hoest's monkey in Rwanda; and Kirk's red colobus, in Zanzibar and Tanzania.

Asia had the worst record for declining primates, with 71 per cent in the region being under threat. In Cambodia, the country with the worst record, 90 per cent of native species are struggling to survive.

“It's really, really serious,” said Jean-Christophe ViĆ©, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as the results of the survey were released at the 22nd International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh.

“Primates are one of the most threatened groups we've assessed and the threat is growing. Deforestation is the main threat but on top of that we have hunting pressure.”

Primates are among the easiest prey for human hunters because they are comparatively easy to spot in the tree canopy, and often advertise their presence with loud calls.

Red colobuses, langurs, mangabeys, howler and spider monkeys are among hunters' favourites because, at 10 to 20lb each, they make a sizeable meal loaded with protein.

Russell Mittermeier, a primate specialist at the IUCN and president of Conservation International, said: “We have raised concerns for years about primates being in peril, but now we have solid data to show the situation is far more severe than we imagined. Tropical forest destruction has always been the main cause, but it appears primates are quite literally being eaten to extinction.”

Story here.

Little Teeth Suggest Big Jump In Primate Timeline

primate teethTiny fossilized teeth excavated from an Indian open-pit coal mine could be the oldest Asian remains ever found of anthropoids, the primate lineage of today's monkeys, apes and humans, say researchers from Duke University and the Indian Institute of Technology.

Just 9-thousandths of a square inch in size, the teeth are about 54.5 million years old and suggest these early primates were no larger than modern dwarf lemurs weighing about 2 to 3 ounces. Studies of the shape of the teeth suggest these small animals could live on a fruit and insect diet, according to the researchers.

"It's certainly the oldest anthropoid from Asia and India," said Richard Kay, a Duke professor of evolutionary anthropology who is corresponding author of a report to be published online during the week of Aug. 4-8 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Previous fossil evidence shows primates were living in North America, Europe and Asia at least 55 million years ago. But, until now, the fossil record of anthropoid primates has extended back only 45 million years.

"We're going back almost 10 million years before any previously described Asian anthropoid," said co-author Blythe Williams, a Duke visiting associate professor of evolutionary anthropology. "The new fossils from India are exciting because they show that the anthropoid lineage is much more ancient than we realized."

In addition to stretching the primate timeline, the specimens represent a new genus as well as a new species of anthropoid, which the researchers have named Anthrasimias gujaratensis by drawing from the Greek word for "coal," Latin for "monkey" and the Indian State of Gujarat where the teeth were found.

"Anthrasimias may be the oldest anthropoid in the world," the PNAS report said -- "may" reflecting the fact that some scientists think slightly older fossils found in a Moroccan limestone deposit also could have been anthropoid, Kay said.

The report's first author is Sunil Bajpai, an earth scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology who directed excavations at the Vastan lignite coal mine in western India that unearthed the fossils.

Bajpai's Indian team managed to find and remove the tiny Anthrasimias tooth specimens from a strata in the mine while "really gigantic trucks" scooped up coal above them, Kay said. The teeth were dated by identifying microscopic marine plankton fossils of known age in nearby rock layers, he added.

Bajpai's team was funded by India's Department of Science and Technology. Work by Williams and Kay, who are anthropoid experts, was funded the Duke Provost's Research Fund and the National Science Foundation.

Their PNAS report describes tooth structure differences that would separate Anthrasimias from two other ancient lines of primates whose remains have been found at the same level of the Vastan mine. Of the three lines, Williams and Kay believe only Anthrasimias's is part of the anthropoid lineage that evolved into modern monkeys, apes and humans.

"Most of the fossil record of ancient primates is made up of teeth, because teeth are easy to preserve and hard," Williams said. "Occasionally we get lucky enough to have a skull to work with, but in this case a few teeth is all we have." Their PNAS report described two upper molars and one lower molar.

"From the tooth size and structure we can say something about the animals' body weight and diet, because teeth have crests that are differentially developed depending on whether they ate primarily insects, leaves or fruit," he said. But without more body parts, Kay and Williams declined to deduce what the animals looked like.

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Search is Off for Moe the Chimp

moe chimpSearch efforts for Moe the missing chimp have been suspended amidst mounting expenses for helicopters, bloodhounds and fuel.

More than a month ago, Moe escaped from his enclosure at Jungle Exotics, a Devore company that supplies animals to the entertainment industry.

"The volunteers (searchers) have worn themselves out," said Joe Camp, owner of Animal Exotics. "We're waiting for him (Moe) to make an appearance or be sighted."

Searchers have employed helicopters, surveillance cameras and bloodhounds in ill-fated attempts to capture the elusive primate.

"The search has taken a financial and psychological toll on a lot of people," said Michael McCasland, a spokesman for Moe's owners, St. James and LaDonna Davis. "Especially the Davises."

The first reported, but unconfirmed "monkey" sighting was at the Deer Park nudist camp; subsequent sightings near Big Bear Lake and elsewhere in the San Bernardino Mountains were never substantiated.

"I have no clue what happened to him," LaDonna Davis said. "It's been more than a month."

The absence of a credible Moe sighting has discouraged searchers and raised questions about the prudence of spending thousands of dollars on aerial surveillance and tracking dogs.

"We've run out of (trained) volunteers," McCasland said. "I have to get more people."

Although concerned, those close to Moe remain hopeful for the chimp's safe return.

"I have to be optimistic.

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Cocoa The Chimp At Salina Zoo Dies

cocoa and tireA chimpanzee that was a popular attraction at a Salina area zoo the for the past 12 years has died.

Cocoa was the leader of a group of three other male chimpanzees.

Officials at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure believe Cocoa developed an infection from a wound he received from one of the other chimps a few weeks ago.

Zoo director Kathy Tolbert says the wound had progressed too far by the time zoo workers became aware of Cocoa's injury. The chimp died Saturday.

Cocoa was born in Africa in 1971, but was kidnapped from the wild early on and sold into the pet trade. After being a private owner's pet for a few years, Cocoa was donated for biomedical research.

In August 1996, the chimp was given to the zoo six miles west of Salina.

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'Lost World' Of Gorillas Discovered In The Congo, May Double Known Population

congo gorilla populationThe discovery of a critically endangered gorilla population in the vast forests of northern Congo is a mammoth 125,000 – double that of previous estimates – should make even the most pessimistic conservation biologist smile.

The numbers of western lowland gorillas living across 47,000 square kilometres of dense forestland were thought to have plummeted from 100,000 to half that number since the 1980s.

Just last year, the threat from the deadly ebola virus and indiscriminate bushmeat hunters prompted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to add the apes to their critically endangered list.

The results of the census by the Wildlife Conservation Society and local government researchers were announced today at a meeting of the International Primatological Society in Edinburgh, UK.

Researchers undertook intensive fieldwork to count the number of nests – the leafy beds the secretive apes sleep in at night. They found as many as eight individuals per square kilometre, one of the highest gorilla densities every recorded.

While it seems bizarre that no-one had realised quite how many gorillas there were in the region, says WCS biologist Emma Stokes, who helped coordinate the study. The difficulty in counting the animals is partly to blame, and detecting the nests can be particularly tricky in densely forested areas, as much of this region is.

Not only that, "the old number was a crude estimate", which relied heavily on extrapolation rather than direct observation, she says. Advances in census methodologies, coupled with the enormous scale and significant funding of the survey is what makes this study far more accurate.

The census is particularly positive news in the context of an IUCN evaluation, also presented at the Edinburgh meeting, which warns that 50% of the world’s primates are in danger of extinction because their habitats are being destroyed and many animals are illegally hunted as food.

The gorillas do have "an enormous advantage of remoteness", which confers a natural protection from poachers and disease epidemics – some survey areas were 80 km away from roads and villages.

But their location won't protect them forever, cautions Stokes, because most of the gorillas live outside protected areas.

A region called Ntokou-Pikounda, in the middle of the forested area, was given national-park status by the government in 2006, but this was a largely empty gesture since officials did nothing to enforce its protection.

Given that the park is home to 73,000 of the gorillas in the study area, ensuring this region is properly protected should be the first step in saving the apes, says Stokes. This will mean stationing people to catch illegal logging trucks and establishing mobile anti-poaching teams in the area.

Because ebola epidemics can quickly reduce as much as 95% of a population, understanding how the virus is transmitted to the animals, and developing vaccines – as well as clever ways of getting the vaccines to the animals fast – will be crucial to protecting the animals, says Stokes.

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