Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Diabetic Monkey Trained For Daily Insulin Injections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ape Artists Raise Funds For Conservation

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Monkey’s Provide Clues Into Social Origins Of Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Chimp Rescued From Congo Soldiers

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fire at Snake Farm Kills Two Baboons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Moment Of Orangutan Janitor Zen...

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

From here.

Stolen Monkeys Found After Tip-Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Vandals Let Chimps Escape, Bite Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

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

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

View Ape Cam Here.
Story here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gibraltar Government Sanctioned Ape Killings Confirmed

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

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

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

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

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

Shadow Minister for the Environment, Fabian Picardo, said:

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

Story here.

Two Monkeys Stolen From Wildlife Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Zoo Gorilla 'Doing Well' After Colonoscopy

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

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

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

“We will continue to closely monitor Gigi.”

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Scientists Compare Human, Chimp Genetics

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

EU Considers Ban On Great Ape Experiments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Monkeys Cause Boys Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Male Gorilla Dies At Little Rock Zoo

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

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

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

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

Story here.