Monday, September 29, 2008

A Moment Of Gorilla Run 2008 Zen...

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of east London dressed as gorillas to raise money for charity.

About 750 runners joined in the sixth annual 7km Great Gorilla Run, which is thought to be a world record for the largest gathering of people wearing gorilla costumes.

The event was staged by The Gorilla Organisation, a charity which protects the endangered species in central African rainforests.

Story here.
More Photos here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Experts Say Missing Moe Likely Dead

Missing for three months, Moe the chimp has likely not survived life in the wild, according to a chimpanzee expert.

Raised like a human child by his West Covina owners, Moe lacks the animal instincts he would need to live in the forest, said chimpanzee expert Lauren Arenson.

"When you say he is eating nachos, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, had birthday cakes and toys, these are all things we expect a young child to have, not an adult chimp," said Arenson, an anthropology professor at Pasadena City College who formerly at the Los Angeles Zoo. "He hasn't developed all those skills necessary for a chimp to survive in the wild."

Moe escaped June 27 from his enclosure at Jungle Exotics, a Devore company that houses animals and provides them to the entertainment industry.

After Moe's disappearance, volunteers and hired hands searched for the primate with bloodhounds, helicopters, pet detectives and cameras, but much of those efforts ended when funds ran dry.

"How is he going to know which plant to eat or which not to eat?" Arenson said. "This is something he would have learned from his mom, not his human parents."

Helicopter sounds tend to frighten animals like chimpanzees, and could have sent Moe into further hiding, Arenson said.

"That is a highly social species and he is out there by himself, so it is not looking good," she said.

It has been nearly three months since Moe was last seen and leads haven't produced any results. Even without any sign of Moe, the chimpanzee's owners hold out hope he will be found alive.

"Do we think he is still out there? Yes," said Michael McCasland, a liaison between Moe's owners - La Donna and St. James Davis of West Covina - and Jungle Exotics.

McCasland's hopes are founded in the idea that people have been on the lookout for ravens, vultures and other predatory birds, but there haven't been any sightings that have led to Moe.

St. James Davis admitted it would be difficult for Moe to survive this long in the mountains, but said the search will continue.

"I know he would want to come home and we would love to have him home," he said.

Davis first found Moe in Tanzania in 1967 after Moe's mother had been killed by poachers. Davis, a merchant marine at the time, brought Moe home with him.

The Davises kept Moe in their West Covina home for about three decades before they were challenged in court to remove the animal. They fought to keep Moe, but a couple of violent incidents forced the Davises to send Moe to a private sanctuary in 1999. Moe bit off the finger of a woman who had put her hand through his cage and he mauled the hand of a police officer.

In 2005, while visiting Moe for his birthday at a sanctuary in Bakersfield, the Davises were attacked by two other chimpanzees who had escaped their cages. St. James was nearly killed in the incident.

Moe was then moved to the Jungle Exotics facility, where he was before escaping into the San Bernardino National Forest.

"We are still actively trying to figure out what happened," LaDonna Davis said.

If he chose to, Moe could remain "aloof," Arenson said. Chimpanzees are highly intelligent creatures, adults are about six times stronger than the average man, and Moe could easily make himself disappear in the tops of trees in the forest, Arenson said.

"Chimps in the wild can do that quite well," she said.

The state Department of Fish and Game is investigating if Jungle Exotics violated conditions of its permit in the escape incident. They also want to know if Jungle Exotics failed to report Moe missing as soon as he was gone.

That investigation is expected to be completed within the next two weeks, Fish and Game spokesman Harry Morse said.

Story here.

Dian Fossey's Gorillas Exhumed for Investigation

fossey gorillasResearchers are preparing the skeletal remains of 72 Rwandan mountain gorillas for a CSI-like analysis they hope will shed light on ape and human health and evolution.

The remains of the gorillas, recovered this summer from an area of Rwanda made famous by primatologist Dian Fossey, were exhumed from three graves or recovered from wildlife authorities and veterinary clinics, where they were stored post-mortem.

Many of the remains have already been identified as belonging to specific gorillas recorded in field notes by Fossey and other researchers.

"Reading" the recovered bones, teeth, and fingernails should reveal the impacts of environmental change and disease on the skeletal growth of these giant apes, which Fossey closely monitored for nearly two decades.

The work—led by an international team of Rwanda wildlife officials, anthropologists, veterinarians, conservationists, and forensic scientists—has so far resulted in the largest single collection of mountain gorilla skeletal remains in the world, according to one of the project's leaders, Tim Bromage, a professor of biomaterials and biomimetics at New York University's College of Dentistry.

The research team will now begin analyzing the remains, comparing what they find to observations recorded by Fossey and her present-day colleagues.

The work could expose important details about mountain gorilla diseases, allowing researchers to develop better conservation strategies, said Tony Mudakikwa, a project leader and chief veterinarian at the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks, which owns and manages the skeletal collection.

Story here.

MySpace Helped Catch Suspected Monkey Thief

steven labore, monkey theif mastermindFor most fugitives, life on the lam involves keeping a low profile. Not so for Steven Labore, who fled Pennsylvania after he and a pal were charged with stealing two monkeys.

Labore, 19, was tracked down this month in Southern Maryland after the prosecutor handling his case discovered that he had posted his phone number and part of his new address to his publicly accessible MySpace page.

"I just punched it in," said Chad Schneider, an assistant district attorney in western Pennsylvania's Washington County. "He had his phone number and his address, so I figured I'd go get him."

Labore had eluded authorities since he missed a court date in March. He was arrested shortly after the monkey theft in November and had been free on $20,000 bond.

As police tell it, Labore and his friend Michael Naylor set out to steal marijuana that was rumored -- falsely -- to be growing in a greenhouse on the property of the Wild World of Animals, an animal education and entertainment business in Eighty Four, Pa. There was no marijuana, but the pair found something else to steal, police say.

"Yeah, jackpot: There's no weed, but there's monkeys," Schneider said.

The thieves successfully removed two monkeys, Gwendolyn and Lucy, from their cages before a third, Kenya, raised a commotion, police said.

"He wasn't having any part of it," said Grant Kemmerer, co-owner of Wild World of Animals. "I'm surprised that he didn't tear them up."

The monkey thieves bolted.

Kemmerer said he got a call about eight hours later from Labore's mother, Jennifer Schmidt, who said she wanted to return the monkeys. Schmidt did not fully explain how Gwendolyn and Lucy had come into her possession but said that her son's friends had stolen them, Kemmerer said.

Police investigated. Labore and Naylor were soon arrested and charged with burglary and other related counts.

Naylor, 19, of Rices Landing, Pa., pleaded guilty to burglary and was sentenced in July to two to five years in prison.

A woman who answered the phone yesterday at Labore's Lexington Park home and identified herself as his mother declined to comment.

Labore is scheduled to be returned to Pennsylvania this week, Schneider said. In the meantime, he will be held at the St. Mary's County jail, where he has been serving a 30-day sentence for driving on a suspended license.

Story here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Joe The Gorilla Dies At Twycross Zoo

gorilla joeOne of a Midland zoo’s first gorillas, which became a favourite of children and adults over four decades, has died.

Joe, a 45-year-old western lowland silverback gorilla, died on Sunday at Twycross Zoo, near Tamworth, following a short illness.

The primate, weighing 32st (203kg), became one of the first gorillas to live at the zoo in July 1965 when he was just 18 months old.

Keepers were today mourning the loss of the animal after more than four decades.

Kim Riley, of Twycross Zoo, said: “Joe was a founder member of Twycross Zoo and was the first of many gorillas in the era when it was still common for lions, tigers, bears and great apes to be on sale in pet shops.

“From this time of arrival, Joe became part of the Twycross family and has seen huge changes in the way zoos keep and care for apes and their shift to their conservation focus.

“Gorillas are very intelligent and can recognise their keepers and regular visitors. Joe was no exception to this and he would sit by his window to watch his admirers as they came to visit.”

Keepers gave Joe four pints of tea, with milk and no sugar, every morning – and his favourite treat of a yoghurt drink.

Gorillas, the largest of the Great Apes, are peaceful and rarely show aggression.

Story here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Artists Wanted

This year Monkey Day is sponsoring a charity silent art auction to benefit the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force (BCTF), a consortium of conservation organizations and scientists dedicated to the conservation of wildlife populations threatened by commercial hunting for sale as meat. More information on the BCTF can be found at The silent art auction will be held on Monkey Day, December 14th, at the Basement 414 gallery in Lansing, Michigan. Artists are encouraged to submit their artwork by December 12th, the submission form and instructions are available for download here:

Musicians are also wanted to play the Monkey Day charity auction, please contact us if you are interested: dayofthemonkey(at)

Story here.

Little Rock Zoo's Oldest Chimp Dies

jodieThe Little Rock Zoo says the facility's oldest chimpanzee, Jodie, has died.

Jodie died Tuesday after a medical examination performed by Zoo veterinarian, Dr. Marilynn Baeyens. Jodie, whose age is estimated to be at least 50-years-old, had been showing signs of advanced age for awhile.

The medical examination performed by Baeyens showed the chimp was experiencing impaired renal function. Baeyens anesthetized Jodie for the medical examination and she failed to recover from the anesthesia.

Jodie came to the Little Rock Zoo in 1970 from Vanderbilt University. Jodie's actual birth date is not known and is only an estimate because she was wild-caught. Records show Jodie is at least 50 but could potentially be older.

When Jodie arrived at the Little Rock Zoo she was a resident of "Chimp Island" which now serves as the Zoo's lemur exhibit. She was one of the first residents of the new chimpanzee exhibit built in 1988.

Jodie is one of the last generations of wild-caught apes. It is now illegal to import apes from the wild, and has been for many years. She was an important member of her chimpanzee family and was known by keepers for her calm and consistent personality which often served as a stabilizing influence on the group.

Jodie's longtime companion, Kim, passed away in 2007, and Jodie was often seen assisting the frail and forgetful chimp. In contrast to her warm and supportive relationship with the members of the chimp group, her relationship with people was aloof and distant. Her keepers had great respect for her uncompromising independence and often felt as though Jodie regarded them as inferior apes.

Story here.

Bristol Zoo Gardens Adopts Orphaned Lowland Gorilla

kera gorillaOrphan gorilla Kera has found herself a new home where it is hoped she will ensure the future of a rare breed of apes.

The four-year-old gorilla is being introduced to her adoptive family of western lowland gorillas at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Born a twin at Barcelona zoo, Kera's mother rejected her and she had to be hand-reared at a special ape nursery at Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, Germany.

But as she grew older a new home had to be found and Bristol zoo was chosen because of its facilities and already-established family of gorillas, headed by Jock, a 34-stone male.

She joins Salome and Romina, the two adult females, three-year-old Namoki and little Komale, who is almost two.

A keeper from Stuttgart zoo travelled with Kera to Bristol and stayed for a few days to help her settle in.

John Partridge, the zoo's senior curator of animals, said Kera, who is described as dominant yet good natured, sociable and very greedy, would eventually breed with Jock.

"Female gorillas are quite rare in the captive breeding programme, so when we were told that a young gorilla from the nursery needed a new home, we applied to have her and were selected, which is fantastic," he said.

"We want to expand our gorilla breeding programme here at Bristol Zoo and we have the veterinary and animal husbandry expertise to facilitate this.

"Kera is currently too young to breed, she will eventually be able to breed with Jock.

"One of our other adult females, Salome, is getting fairly old now and has a history of having trouble conceiving, so this is also a way of looking to the future of our breeding group."

The gorilla family's day to day life can be seen live on the zoo's webcam.

Story here.

Study Shows Chimps Don't Forget A Bum

chimp bumsChimps can match up the faces of group members with photos of their behinds. The ability, researchers say, shows that chimps carry around mental representations with "whole body" detail of chimps they have encountered.

Primatologists Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny of the Yerkes National Primate Research Centre at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, tested how well six adult chimpanzees could link pictures of various chimpanzee behinds, either male or female, with photos of individual chimp faces.

They showed a chimp, first, a photo of a chimp's behind, including genitals, then the faces of two chimps, both of the same sex as that behind. Each of three male and three female chimps were able to make the correct face-with-behind pairing with a probability significantly higher than chance.

But the chimps succeeded only if the faces were of chimps they knew. This suggests, the researchers say, that the chimps weren't simply detecting generic visual cues in the faces that would link them to the behind in question. Rather, it seems that the chimps must be capable of what psychologists call "whole body" integration.

"They were not only seeing the photographs as representations of chimps they knew, says de Waal, "but linked the face and behind by drawing upon a mental representation of the whole body of those chimps."

Earlier experiments had hinted that some non-human primates might have this capability, but this is the first time "whole body knowledge" has been convincingly demonstrated.

Primatologist Agnes Lacreuse of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, says that more experiments are needed before we can conclude that chimps identify other chimps using a "gender construct" method. "We know that macaques are able to categorize faces as males or females, so it would be very surprising if chimpanzees were unable to do so."

In other experiments, de Waal and Pokorny also tested the chimps' ability to recognise the sex of other chimps from photos of their faces alone.

They first presented chimps with a photo of either a generic male or female chimp rear end – a sexually charged stimulus. The chimps were then shown closely cropped photos of two chimps, one male and one female, and encouraged to select the face of the same sex as the rear end.

The chimps tended to be successful at this test too, but again only if the faces belonged to chimps familiar to them.

This suggests, de Waal speculates, that chimps may operate with a "gender construct" – that is, the chimps recognise the sex of other chimps based, not just on physical attributes, but on other information from their previous experience with those individuals, such as their roles in the larger group.

This would be similar to how humans recognise gender, de Waal points out. In experiments with sex cues such as facial shape and hair removed, for example, people can identify faces as male or female more rapidly if they are faces of familiar people.

Story here.

'Julian' The Monkey Found Near Zoo After 12 Days On The Loose

After spending nearly two weeks on the lam, a missing Japanese Macaque monkey is back behind bars.

"Julian" went missing 12 days ago from Bergeron's Animal Sanctuary in Prince Edward County. Since his escape, police, conservation officers and animal control have been on the run trying to track down the monkey.

Owner Joe Bergeron says Julian was found Sunday night about 1.5 kilometres from the zoo near Picton, Ont.

Julian was coaxed into a nearby barn and caged.

Bergeron says the mischievous Macaque is being taken to a monkey sanctuary in Sunderland, north of Oshawa.

Story here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Monkey Escapes Exotic Animal Sanctuary Despite Being Shot With Tranquilizer

police chase monkeyJulian is still on the loose.

But the macaque monkey, missing from Bergeron's Exotic Animal Sanctuary, may be dopey and in a field off County Road 5 in Prince Edward County.

Thursday morning, animal control workers nearly captured the animal when he was spotted the animal around the goat pen at the sanctuary, by the border of Hallowell and Sophiasburgh wards.

Sanctuary owner Joe Bergeron said the monkey had made a habit of stealing corn from the goat's pen for a couple of days now, so it was the perfect spot for sting operation.

"I've noticed he's come around two or three days in a row," Bergeron recalled.

County canine officers responded just after 9 a. m. and hit him with a tranquilizer gun.

But the monkey still got away.

"I'm sure the drug knocked him right out and he'll probably be groggy most of the night."

However, the drug's short-term effects will probably wear off by this morning, Bergeron said.

"So he'll be up and at it again."

Garry Davis, the county's chief building and bylaw enforcement officer said his staff, along with OPP and animal control workers brought in from the Durham region, spent the bulk of the day searching for the Julian, to no avail.

Two OPP vehicles were parked in a lot beside a home at 994 County Road 5 Thursday afternoon, along with a Prince Edward County canine/bylaw van.

Officials there declined to speak an Intelligencer reporter, shortly before pulling away at about 3 p. m.

And so the search for Julian continues.

Davis said he has no idea whether the monkey is alert or unconscious.

But he said officials used twice the dosage as when they tranquilized Julian, following a separate escape in May 2007.

On that day, Julian did not go unconscious but went into a woozy enough state that they were able to capture him and return him to the sanctuary.

"A year ago we couldn't get a real good determination on a dose to give it," Davis said. "We cautioned on the low side and it didn't do a very good job, but we were successful in gaining it."

He said all officials can do is keep their eye open for Julian and hope the public will let them know if they see him.

"We'll just do due diligence." Bergeron, meanwhile, said his animal -- which has been on the loose for close to a week -- doesn't mean anyone harm.

"He's not a vicious animal -- he's a scared animal right now. I'm sure we'll get him ... it may take time, but we'll get him."

Story here.

Rare Ape Born In Terra Natura Park

ape bornA rare Siamang monkey, the first-ever to be born in the Benidorm theme park, ‘Terra Natura’, came into the world last week. A species native to Malaysia and Sumatra Island, it is a form of gibbon and therefore an ape, rather than a monkey. It is notable for its very long arms that enable it to swing from tree to tree at speeds of up to 60 kilometres per hour.

For the first year, the mother will care for and feed the baby, but after this, the father has to take over.

Siamang monkeys are listed in an international catalogue of species which are in danger of extinction.

They grow to about 30 - 35 inches in length, live for around 25 years in the wild, or 40 in captivity, and usually stay with the same partner all their lives.

Story here.

2 of 3 Stolen Monkeys Returned To Sanctuary

stolen monkeysTwo of the monkeys missing from a monkey sanctuary for months were returned to Monkey Island early Friday morning.

A former staff member was taken into custody by police in Buchanan County after the monkeys were found at her home Thursday night.

The Monkey Island staff got a call late Thursday night from deputies that the monkeys, Abby and Nicholas, were found in Agency, Mo.

Staff members told KCTV5 News that the monkeys were found while the deputies were handling a domestic disturbance call at a former Monkey Island volunteer's house.

The volunteer was not the same woman seen on security surveillance videotape removing the monkey from their cages at the sanctuary in October 2007.

Monkey Island operator Dana Savorelli said, "We never knew this morning when we woke up that we'd be doing this at night time.

You don't know what life's going to bring. This part's a happy ending."

The monkeys were returned to the Monkey Island animal sanctuary in Greenwood around 1 a.m. Both appeared to be in good health, Savorelli said, but are still undergoing medical checks.

One of the three stolen monkeys is still missing.

Story here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gorilla Has Sore Tooth Removed By Dentist

gorilla sore toothWhen is a dentist more afraid of a patient than the normal way around? When the patient is a 28 stone gorilla with a tooth-ache.

Animal dentist, Peter Kertesz, was called out to Paignton Zoo to see Pertinax, a silverback Western gorilla who had a broken canine tooth.

He needed to remove the three inch root and understandably didn't think it was suitable for the beast to attend his London practice where he also works on humans, for a start the chair wasn't going to be big enough.

So Kertesz assembled a team including his dental nurse, zoo vets and the great ape keepers to help him sedate Pertinax and perform the operation at the zoo.

The op took about two hours and Pertinax was understandably groggy afterwards but is now back to his normal self.

"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," said the dentist.

"People ask if this is just a bit of fun, but it is a very serious business – the health and sometimes the life of a rare creature is in your hands."

Kertesz has worked on a range of exotic species – including gorillas, pandas, elephants and whales (wait, can someone check all those animals even have teeth.)

Story here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Monkey Escapes Ontario Sanctuary, Again

A monkey is on the lam from an animal zoo in eastern Ontario. The Japanese macaque monkey escaped from Bergeron's Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Picton, located 215 kilometres east of Toronto, sometime between 2 p.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. Wednesday. It's not the first time the crafty primate has tasted freedom. Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Lee Abrames said the monkey was missing for about a week when it escaped last year. The 4 1/2-year-old monkey weighs between nine and 11 kilograms, has long brown hair and a red face. The monkey is a possible carrier of the herpes-B virus.

Story here.

Cincinnati Zoo Gorilla Has Malignant Tumor

gorilla surgeryThe Cincinnati Zoo says one of it's Western lowland gorilla's has an incurable, malignant tumor in her nasal passage.

Surgeons examined and evaluated the mass in 27 year old Muke's left nasal passage on July 26th. Two otolaryngology surgeons from Cincinnati Head and Neck, Inc., two anesthesiologists from The Christ Hospital, two technicians from Xoran Technologies, Inc., and support staff from various institutions joined the Zoo Animal Health Care staff made up of three veterinarians and one veterinary technician. A CAT scan revealed the mass in Muke's nasal passage is a high grade aggressive malignancy that even in the best of treatment situations, with a cooperative and willing patient, would unlikely be curable.

"We are extremely grateful to the entire medical team for donating their time, expertise and equipment to help our very sick gorilla," said Dr. Mark Campbell, Director of Animal Health at the Cincinnati Zoo. "We are fortunate to have had such great support from the dental, medical and veterinary communities around the Cincinnati metropolitan area over the years to help us provide quality health care for all of our animals."

Following the surgery and recovery from anesthesia, Muke was returned to her two-year-old son, Bakari later that afternoon. Animal Health and Primate Center staff are closely watching Muke's appetite, behavior and quality of life and are focused on providing the best possible medical and supportive care for her and her son while she remains in the comfort of her family group.

Muke continues to be an excellent mother to Bakari and remains active. Keepers are conditioning Bakari, as they do with all newborn gorillas, to take whole milk from a bottle or cup and solid food in the event that the mother is unable to nurse. By the age of three, most gorillas are completely weaned.

"The day a baby gorilla is born they are 100% dependant on their mothers and families to care for them. They have a complex communication system and rules of gorilla etiquette to learn as they grow up, said Ron Evans, Cincinnati Zoo Primate Team Leader. "At two years old Bakari is well established in his group and has a great relationship with everyone. The other adults are very gentle with him and understand the proper way to behave around a youngster."

Muke was born September 5, 1981. Her father, Ramses and her mother was Amani are now at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas. In addition to Bakari, Muke is a mother to two other gorillas Chewie and Cecil.

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals.

Story here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monkey Slaps Cop At Market

monkey slaps copPanic ensued on Tuesday when a stray adult monkey started parading on the pavements of Electronics Market, one of the busiest commercial areas of the city, adjacent to Regal Chowk.

A large number of people, including shopkeepers, customers and area residents, gathered to watch the monkey walk around and perform a variety of antics. Several children came out of their homes to watch while many women looked from their balconies. The crowd blocked several vehicles when they followed the monkey onto the road.

Eyewitnesses said that the monkey tried to climb on to cars and the women in them started screaming. Traffic police rushed to the scene and attempted to catch the monkey. However, the monkey slapped a policeman and climbed on to the advertisement board of one of the shops. “Nobody informed us,” said ASI Tariq, the duty officer at Preedy police station. “We would have done something if somebody had made a complaint.”

After some time, the crowd started playing around with the monkey by throwing bananas and other fruit at it. Some children threw stones at it, annoying the monkey, which then injured five people with its paws. Nobody knows where this monkey came from, said a shopkeeper.

Later, when the crowd dispersed, the monkey calmed down and climbed into the balcony of a residential flat. It slept there till evening.

Officials of the Sindh wildlife department were also unaware of the event. “I was out of the city on a personal assignment and will see to this myself on Wednesday morning,” said Game Warden Rasheed Ahmed Khan.

Story here.

Langur Born At Toledo Zoo

baby langurThe Toledo Zoo is welcoming a new addition to its Primate Forest. A male Francois' langur was born to mother Ashes and father Dong Puong in early September.

Adult Francois' langurs typically have a long, black, silky coat with a white bank of cheek fur. What sets them apart from other species in the Primate Forest is a pointed crest of hair on their heads. Babies; however, are born orange in color to protect the them by helping them blend in with foliage in their natural habitat.

The animals are native to Vietnam, southeast China and central Laos. They are an endangered population due to habitat loss from deforestation, human encroachment and hunting.

The Toledo Zoo is one of only a dozen zoos in the country to exhibit and breed the animals. They have been on exhibit in Toledo since 1996.

The baby monkey is the third son born to Ashes and Dong Puong. They have been on exhibit at the zoo since 2000.

Story here.

French University Under Fire For Culling Macaques

primates culledPrimate scientists are criticizing a decision at the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France, to kill a research colony of Tonkean macaques (Macaca tonkeana) last month because the animals were infected with the herpes B virus.

The monkeys, at the Centre of Primatology, had never shown symptoms of disease, and scientists critical of the move say that the culling was scientifically and morally unjustified. But university officials say they were concerned that the virus could jump the species barrier to people working with the animals. In humans, the virus can cause fatal encephalomyelitis.

Some of the animals in the 14-strong colony had been used for up to 25 years by macaque ethologists. The species has an unusual way of resolving social conflicts, in which a third individual often tries to actively reconcile two fighting monkeys. There are few Tonkean macaques in captivity.

It has been known since the 1980s that the Strasbourg animals carried the virus, but it was not until more recently that the possibility of human contagion was realized. Safety protocols were implemented in 1998, when the colony was isolated in its own wooded enclosure. Scientists and keepers were required to wear protective clothing when entering the enclosure, although they rarely get close to the animals. Restrictions became tighter when a new veterinary surgeon joined the university in 2002 and research students were not allowed to enter. A new colony of 23 animals was bred from virus-free individuals.

The university has asked its primate ethologists, led by Bernard Thierry, not to speak to the press, but their colleagues elsewhere say that they were distressed to learn that the animals were killed without their knowledge on Sunday 31 August, when scientists and keepers were not present. "We were all shocked by this," says Elisabetta Visalberghi, a researcher at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies in Rome, and president of the Italian Ethological Society.

The ethologists had been negotiating with the university for more than five years over the animals' fate, including talks with a sanctuary in San Antonio, Texas, over possibly accepting the macaques. But on 29 August, a university council confirmed a decision taken earlier in the summer to cull the animals. "It would be stupid to keep them for more time," says Nicolas Herrenschmidt, director of the centre. "The risk of transmission to humans is small, but it is there."

Juichi Yamagiwa at Kyoto University in Japan, who is president of the International Primatological Society, says macaque-to-human transmission of the virus is very rare, and the society has guidelines to ensure this does not happen. "I believe that no one would insist on killing infected monkeys if they have read these guidelines," he says.

Behaviouralist Frans de Waal works with macaques, many of which are infected, at Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He says he is "shocked that the deed has been done". He believes that "the risk, if managed properly, is not great enough to justify euthanizing these beautiful and interesting animals".

Hannah Buchanan-Smith, a primate behaviouralist at the University of Stirling, UK, says that the cull was "morally unacceptable". Research primates are not expendable once they have stopped being useful, she says. "We have a moral responsibility to look after them once we have used them, if, like these, they were able to lead happy lives."

But Alain Beretz, president of the Louis Pasteur University, says that the decision to kill the animals was made in a considered fashion over a five-year period. "We were not happy with the decision that we had to make," he says. "but we had to do it to protect our employees."

Story here.

Hugging Benefits Fractious Chimps

chimp hugsIf you have just had a big falling out with a colleague, there is nothing better than the comforting and consoling arm of a good friend.

Chimps, it seems, feel the same way, according to a study at Chester Zoo.

The research is said to provide the first evidence that consolation in primates, such as hugging and stroking, can reduce stress levels after a fight.

The behaviour could indicate some level of empathy, Dr Orlaith Fraser told the British Association Science Festival.

"We can't actually say what's going on in a chimpanzee's mind; we can only deduce from their behaviour what's going on," the Liverpool John Moores University researcher said.

"Because this behaviour is actually reducing stress levels and it's being offered by a valuable partner, it seems likely that this is an expression of empathy."

Dr Fraser and colleagues spent 18 months observing 22 adult chimps at Chester Zoo.

They watched closely what happened immediately after the animals had a scrap - perhaps a fight over food, a mate or simply where to sit.

In about 50% of cases, the victim in the fight would be consoled by another member of the group. The soothing was always done by a valuable - or best - friend, a chimp with whom the victim would routinely play or share food.

The consolation usually took the form of a kiss or embrace, a grooming session or even play.

The scientists could see that this activity had the effect of reducing stress levels, indicated by the return to the animals' normal activities of self-scratching and self-grooming.

"Sympathetic concern" has also been observed in gorillas, bonobos, dogs and even rooks - but it is the calming effect that it had on the Chester Zoo chimps which is said to be a new observation.

"If these chimpanzees are actually motivated by empathy to console victims of aggression, they must first of all be able to recognise that the victim is distressed and then they must know what to do in order to act appropriately to respond to this distress," said Dr Fraser.

"This is something often thought to be a unique trait to humans, so understanding the link between consolation and stress reduction in chimpanzees is an important step towards understanding whether or not chimpanzees are capable of this level of empathy."

The results of the Chester Zoo study were recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Story here.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Endangered China Monkeys Double In Number

golden monkeyThe number of endangered gray snub-nosed monkeys, found only in China's Guizhou province, has more than doubled to about 850, a government bureau says.

The population, which lives in Guizhou's 260-square-mile mountainous Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve, has grown because of steady environmental improvements and governmental protection measures, the Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve Administration Bureau said.

Back in 1979, there were just 400 gray snub-nosed simians, the bureau noted in a report carried by Xinua, China's official news agency.

The reserve, seeking to end more than a century of mining that depleted the forest on the mountains' northern slope, was established in 1978.

The monkey, on China's list of most-endangered wild animals, is the rarest among the three species of golden monkeys in China.

Since 1992, the bureau has successfully bred 16 of the monkeys, also known as Guizhou golden hair monkeys or gray golden hair monkeys, from seven captured in the wild, Xinhua reported.

The monkeys get their name from the short, stump of a nose on their round face, with nostrils arranged forward.

Primarily tree-dwellers, they inhabit mountain forests up to an altitude of two to three miles, in the winter moving into the deeply secluded regions.

Story here.

A Moment Of One-Armed Monkey Rabbit Zen...

monkey rabbit
one armed monkey rabbit
monkey and rabbit
BoonLua, a long-tailed macaque, lives with Toby, a rabbit, in Thailand's Ayutthaya province about 80km north of Bangkok.

BoonLua, who is about six years old, was savagely attacked as a wild monkey by dogs three years ago.

He lost both legs and one arm during the mauling - but dragged himself to a nearby temple, where he received medical treatment.

He now lives in a custom built enclosure with the rabbit, Toby.

Story here.

Oldest Gorilla In Captivity, Jenny, Dies at Age 55

jenny the gorillaThe oldest gorilla in captivity, a female named Jenny who celebrated her 55th birthday this spring, has died at her home in the Dallas Zoo, a spokesman said Friday.

Zoo officials decided to euthanize Jenny Thursday night because of an inoperable tumor in her stomach. Jenny had stopped eating and drinking recently and tests showed she was unlikely to recover, said Sean Greene, director of Community Relations for the Dallas Zoological Society.

"The last couple of weeks we noticed that she hadn't been feeling all that great," Greene said. "It was a quality of life decision."

Jenny, a Western lowland gorilla, was born in the wild and acquired by the zoo in 1957. She was one of five gorillas at the Dallas Zoo.

"It's a huge loss for the entire gorilla community," 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 "It's very sad that she's passed on, but what a great life she's had."

In May, the zoo held a birthday bash to celebrate Jenny's longevity. She was feted with a cake made of a frozen fruit treats, and the adoration of zoo staff and fans.

Jenny's caretakers said she preferred banana peels to the fruit inside and loved to forage for seeds and cereal hidden beneath pine shavings. She was often seen napping below a fig tree in her habitat. Jenny was said to have a sweet disposition and enjoyed being around people.

"We had a tough time saying goodbye," said Todd Bowsher, curator of the zoo's mammals in the Wilds of Africa exhibit.

At 218 pounds, Jenny was in relatively good health and had been part of a national study on female menopause in gorillas.

Gorillas in the wild normally live to age 30 or 35, but they can survive years longer in a zoo, with veterinary care and protection from predators. Still, of the roughly 360 gorillas in North American zoos, only four were over 50 as of this spring.

One of those, Colo, a 51-year-old female gorilla at the Columbus Zoo, is now considered the oldest living gorilla, according to the International Species Information System, which maintains records on animals at 750 institutions around the world.

Colo was the first gorilla born in captivity, in 1956, said Nate Flesness, director of the international species organization.

Earlier this year, the international database confirmed that Jenny was the oldest.

Jenny gave birth in 1965 to a female named Vicki, who was sent to Alberta, Canada, at age 5. Zoo veterinarians aren't sure why Jenny didn't conceive again.

Just last month, another gorilla at the Dallas zoo, 43-year-old Hercules, died after undergoing a medical procedure for spinal disease.

There are now four gorillas at the Dallas Zoo: Timbo, 46, Tufani and Patrick, both 18, and Makena, 9.

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. The enclosure was remodeled and the city paid a fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Story here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Monkeys Are Married In Controversial Chinese Zoo Stunt

monkeys married
monkey weddingMaybe the dress wasn't the right size, or perhaps it was the grey and gloomy weather - but these two monkeys don't seem over-the-moon after being married in China.

The downcast-looking pair tied the knot in a special wedding ceremony at their zoo.

The monkeys - who live in Wenling, Zhejiang province - are seven-year-old male monkey Wukong and a six-year-old female named Xiaoya.

The widlife park organised the wedding in the hope of attracting more visitors, local media reported.

But the controversial stunt is bound to upset animal rights groups in a country famed for being cruel to animals.

Back in 2006 a Shanghai zoo cancelled a show dubbed the 'Animal Olympics' following accusations of cruelty from animal welfare groups.

The show had featured animals in athletic-type situations, such as boxing matches between kangaroos and their keepers, bears fighting and riding bicycles, and an elephant tug-of-war.

And in 2007 a bear was forced to ride a bicycle and be chased by his trainer during an animal performance for the Chinese May Day holidays at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park.

Story here.

Thai Police Intercept Monkeys Bound To Cambodian Restaurants

Thai Highway Police in Sa Kaeo province have rescued 24 baby crab-eating monkeys, arresting a Thai driver and five undocumented Cambodians attempting to smuggle the endangered species to Cambodia, where they were destined for cooking pots in Chinese restaurants.

Sa Kaeo Highway Police Thursday were suspicious of a pick-up truck at a check point along the Sa Kaeo-Bangkok road, as it was being driven at high-speed.

Stopping the truck for a search, police found the 24 baby monkeys, each separated in a net bag, and seized
equipment used for catching monkeys, including nets, traps and nylon bags.

After questioning, the police said the suspects were all monkey traders in Prachinburi, who had been illegally delivering the animals to Chinese specialty restaurants in Cambodia.

They received Bt100 per monkey, the police said, adding that the gang carried out the illegal trade for many years.

All six men were charged with smuggling endangered wildlife, while the five Cambodians were also charged with illegal entry.

The crab-eating monkey is found in a wide variety of habitats, including rainforests and coastal mangrove forests.

The little creatures have short arms and legs, dark noses,and black fur which turns yellow green, grey-green or reddish-brown shades as they mature. They are distinguished by blue abdominal skin.

The crab-eating monkey or long-tailed macaques are among the most commonly used laboratory animal, second only to the rhesus monkey. They were used extensively in studies leading to the development of the polio vaccine.

Story here.

Wild Monkey Leads Tokyo Police On Chase

rogue monkey tokyoThe elusive primate has been giving authorities a headache since showing up on the streets of Japan's capital last month, repeatedly dodging net-wielding police.

"This monkey is driving us crazy," said Tadayoshi Toyama, a police official in the Kanda district. "It's so agile, and we only have nets."

The monkey - a Japanese macaque - first appeared at Tokyo's Shibuya station last month, gazing down at crowds from a schedule board before escaping from dozens of police and dashing to a park.

Since then, the creature - which some authorities suspect hitched a train ride from nearby mountains into the city - has been sighted repeatedly around Tokyo.

But it always manages to slip away before police can catch it.

The monkey has not hurt anyone so far, and Tokyo citizens have been delighted rather than alarmed by its appearances. At Shibuya, scores of commuters and children snapped photos of it with their mobile phones.

However, police are finding the monkey's antics less amusing.

Each sighting forces net-wielding officers to rush to the scene. Police had to mobilise 10 times over the last weekend alone, but without success.

On Monday, the monkey was seen sitting in front of a fruit shop staring at the bananas, but was apparently shooed away before snatching its breakfast, Mr Toyama said.

It was later spotted outside a nearby restaurant, then on a powerline, looking down at the police officers who arrived at the scene after a tip-off from a member of the public.

Mr Toyama said: "Then the monkey urinated to the ground. What a troublemaker. We have to catch him as soon as possible."

Yoshiaki Sagawa, an official at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, says the monkey is probably not a runaway pet because it appears to be untamed.

"It's probably a country monkey that has got lost from the troop and ended up in the city. Male monkeys sometimes act independently, and that's what might have happened," Mr Sagawa said.

The monkey is probably living on rainwater, leaves and berries on trees in the park, or from someone's yard, he said.

Monkeys are common in rural Japan where they have often damage crops, and have been known to bite humans. A rise in the monkey population in recent years has led to more of them foraging beyond forests into farms and towns.

Story here.

Controversial Plastics Chemical Causes Problems in Monkey Brains

plastic studyA new study of a chemical commonly used in plastic containers found that it causes damage to monkey’s brains, raising new concerns over the chemical’s possible effects on humans. The chemical, called bisphenol A or BPA, has been the source of controversy for months as government agencies and scientists have gone back and forth on whether the substance is a health threat. BPA has been in commercial use since the 1950s, and is found in baby bottles, water bottles, in the lining used for canned goods, and many other items.

In the latest study, the research team exposed monkeys to levels of bisphenol A deemed safe for humans by the Environmental Protection Agency and found that the chemical interfered with brain cell connections vital to memory, learning and mood. “Our findings suggest that exposure to low-dose BPA may have widespread effects on brain structure and function,” the authors wrote [Washington Post].

These findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [subscription required], come just after a group of government experts released a report saying they have “some concern” the chemical is linked to health and developmental problems…. The report, released by the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program, doesn’t say BPA should be banned but that more research is necessary to understand how the chemical affects human health [The Wall Street Journal]. However, just last month the Food and Drug Administration released its own draft report stating that the amount of BPA that leaches out of containers is too small to harm anyone, including infants.

The American Chemical Council has maintained that BPA is safe, and says that animal studies can’t determine whether the chemical has an impact on humans. Meanwhile, consumers are caught in the middle of the argument, whiplashed by blasts of conflicting information. Says National Toxicology Program spokesman Michael Shelby: “Unfortunately, it is very difficult to offer advice on how the public should respond to this information…. If parents are concerned, they can make the personal choice to reduce exposures of their infants and children to BPA” [WebMD].

Story here.

Baby's Scent Lowers Testosterone In Monkey Dads

monkey scentJust a whiff of an infant can quickly lower a father's testosterone levels and inhibit the likelihood its father will try any monkey business — in marmosets, at least.

The study done by the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center at UW-Madison focused on the small monkeys native to South America and the hormone levels of marmoset fathers.

Marmoset dads bear nearly as much of the responsibility of child rearing as the mothers, said Toni Ziegler, a staff scientist at the center. One of the important revelations of this study is the role testosterone plays in primate fatherhood.

Some studies show male testosterone directly affects aggression. Ziegler said because a marmoset baby's scent has the ability to lower testosterone, the fathers will most likely exhibit more care for their offspring.

"Essentially, this encourages the father to be there for the child," she said.

Ziegler said the research could lead to more profound studies on olfactory senses and their effect on primates and humans.

Kumar Guha, a father of two who lives in Madison, said he can relate to the findings because he experienced similar feelings when his children were born. He did not know whether his affection for his kids was due to decreased testosterone, but he said he felt "more soft."

"When you have kids, you don't feel the same need to be as aggressive," he said.

Ziegler said the study also found the monkey's testosterone level is flexible, meaning that while fathers tend to relax more around infants, they can still increase testosterone when needed in times of danger or mating. Ziegler noted female marmosets are often impregnated shortly after they give birth and mating requires an increase in testosterone.

The study was done with marmosets experienced in fatherhood. By isolating the dads from their families and the family's odor, Ziegler and company exposed the dads to an infant scent and a control scent. Ziegler said marmosets with no parenting experience showed indifference to the scents, but the experienced dads showed immediate results.

"Within 20 minutes, testosterone in experienced marmoset fathers began dropping significantly," Ziegler said. She said studies were not done on first-time marmoset dads.

Story here.

Feds Fine University of Texas Lab for Chimp Escape and Death

chimp shotThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has fined the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center for the March 2008 escape and shooting death of a chimpanzee. Tony, the chimpanzee, broke away from a primate compound near Bastrop.

The USDA opened an investigation after receiving PETA's complaint about the incident and cited M.D. Anderson's Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research last month for multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act in three separate incidents.

The violations include failure to maintain secure enclosures and failure to handle animals in a manner that does not cause them harm. The facility has paid nearly $3,000 to settle the fine.

Tony's escape and killing was one of three escapes involving chimpanzees in la six month period.

Story here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Monkey Mugs Woman For Egg Tarts At Hong Kong Bus Stop

A 25-year-old woman was taken to hospital after being mugged by a monkey for a box of egg tarts at a bus stop in Hong Kong, police said Monday. The primate struck seconds after the woman got off a bus for a Sunday picnic in rural Sai Kung Country Park in Hong Kong's New Territories near the Chinese border.

The monkey scratched her arm as it grabbed the box of egg tarts, police said. The shocked victim was taken to hospital for treatment for minor injuries, a spokesman said.

Hong Kong's rural New Territories are home to thousands of grey macaque monkeys, whose population has exploded in recent years because of the population shift to urban areas.

The monkeys usually keep clear of humans, but occasionally, hungry lone males will prey on hikers from the city unused to seeing monkeys and arriving in country parks with bags of food.

Story here.