Friday, February 29, 2008

Monkey Survives Brutal Arrow Attack

monkey shot with arrow“How can someone be so cruel, so inhumane.” “It’s unbelievable. Absolutely unacceptable. “I hope they track down the one responsible and make him pay for his terrible deeds.”

These were just some of the comments received from readers who heard about the incident last week where a ‘helpless’ male vervet monkey was shot twice with a hunting bow.

Kormorant was called to the scene in Elizabeth Street, Schoemansville where Wollie, who is second in charge in his troop, was found. It was shocking to see. Two arrows went right through his head and body.

A ranger from the Hartbeespoort Snake and Animal Park caught Wollie and held him in a blanket. They transported him to the Hartbeespoort Animal Clinic where Dr Christine Hahn, assisted by Sr Sunette Griebenow started the procedure to remove the arrows, which entered from his left side.

According to Dr Christine the one went through his skull and exited on the right hand side of his jaw. The other one went in just behind his shoulder-blade and exited through his shoulder (to the right).

Dr Christine said the second arrow was almost a mortal shot. If the arrow went straight through his body it would have hit his heart. The arrow went through his left lung.

Wollie was given an anesthetic after which Dr Christine and her team removed the arrows. Large pliers were used to cut the arrows and split the solid arrowhead from the feathery part before they were pulled from his body. The archer, which is believed to be a professional hunter ‘knew what he was doing’ and luckily did not hit major blood-vessels and Wollie did not suffer from any bleeding. He also did not lose too much air or blood from the injured lung and did not need any surgery.

Kormorant was allowed to capture the whole procedure on film and watch the team at work. Wollie’s wounds were thoroughly cleaned and antibiotics injected into the wounds. Dr Christine turned him over to attend to the wounds on the other side. The medicine had run straight through to the other side. His wounds were stitched and he was transported to the hospital section where his treatment with antibiotics continued.

Wollie recuperated miraculously and received his last dosage of antibiotics on Monday 25 February. He was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday. Dr Christine fed Wollie a banana which he gulped before Luela Mossom of the Vervet Monkey Foundation took him in her care and released him in her garden where he and his fellow troop members often gather.

Luella told Kormorant that they were offering a reward for the successful prosecution of the culprit responsible for Wollie’s ordeal.

The monkey was eager to take back his freedom and immediately leaped forward when Luela opened the cage to set him free. He climbed the nearest tree from where he once again overlooked the area he calls home.

Luela took the opportunity to thank Dr Christine, Dr Ken Pettey and everyone at the hospital for taking such good care of Wollie. She added that Dr Christine was very generous and did not charge them any professional fees. They also received a huge discount on his medication.

“Thank you very, very much. it does not only come from the bottom of our hearts but also on behalf of Wollie who cannot speak for himself,” she said.


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The Ape Conservation Effort Holds The First Annual 'Apes in the Arts' Auction In Atlanta

apes paintingsArt painted by gorillas and orangutans will be auctioned off in Atlanta to help save the lives of other great apes in the wild.

The Apes in the Arts event will be held March 6 at the J. Tribble Antiques at 747 Miami Circle in Atlanta. The silent auction will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at www.apeconservationeffort.org.

Officials at the The Ape Conservation Effort, an Atlanta-based grassroots organization said all the proceeds from the night's event will go to organizations such as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and The Orangutan Conservancy.

Apes in the Arts will feature food and drink as well as the silent auction.


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Monkey Gene That Blocks AIDS Viruses Evolved More Than Once

hiv monkeys geneResearchers at Harvard Medical School have identified a gene in Asian monkeys that may have evolved as a defense against lentiviruses, the group of viruses that includes HIV. The study, published February 29 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens, suggests that AIDS is not a new epidemic.
The gene, called TRIM5-CypA, well characterized elsewhere (AIDS, 2007; PNAS, 2008), is a hybrid of two existing cellular genes, TRIM5 and CypA. The combination produces a single protein capable of blocking infection by viruses closely related to HIV. Surprisingly, this is actually the second time researchers have identified a TRIM5-CypA gene in monkeys. The other hybrid gene, called TRIMCyp, was discovered in 2004 in South American owl monkeys.

Normally, evolutionary biologists assume that similar DNA sequences, present in the same location in the genomes of two or more species, evolved only once. In this scenario, the gene arises first in a common ancestor and is subsequently inherited by all the species that descend from that ancestor. In the case of TRIM5-CypA and TRIMCyp, this does not appear to be the case.

TRIM5-CypA was not found in monkeys closely related to the Asian macaques, and in fact, was not found in every macaque individual tested. Likewise, owl monkey TRIMCyp was not found in any other species of South American primate. Researchers interpret this to mean that the two genes arose independently, once in owl monkeys and once in macaques. More tellingly, even though the protein sequences specified by the two TRIM5-CypA genes are similar, at the DNA level it is obvious that the molecular events leading to formation of the two genes were different.

Evolutionary biologists refer to the acquisition of a similar adaptation in different species as “convergent evolution,” an example being the independent appearance of flight in both birds and bats. The Harvard team’s genetic evidence indicates that the two TRIM5-CypA genes constitute an unambiguous and particularly striking example of convergent evolution. Moreover, the kinds of molecular events required to construct the two TRIM5-CypA genes are thought to be rare.

That the process occurred at least twice during primate evolution suggests that the combination of the TRIM5 and CypA genes provided a strong evolutionary advantage to the individuals in which they originally appeared. An intriguing possibility is that the newly formed genes prevented infection by prehistoric viruses related to modern AIDS viruses. If so, this could mean that AIDS-like epidemics are not unique to our time, but in fact may have plagued our primate ancestors long before the modern AIDS epidemic.


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Communication In Chimps And Humans Traced To Same Brain Region

chimp communicationAn area of the brain involved in the planning and production of spoken and signed language in humans plays a similar role in chimpanzee communication, researchers report online on February 28th in the journal Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press.

“Chimpanzee communicative behavior shares many characteristics with human language,” said Jared Taglialatela of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. “The results from this study suggest that these similarities extend to the way in which our brains produce and process communicative signals.”

The results also suggest that the “neurobiological foundations” of human language may have been present in the common ancestor of modern humans and chimpanzees, he said.

Scientists had identified Broca’s area, located in part of the human brain known as the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), as one of several critical regions that light up with activity when people plan to say something and when they actually talk or sign. Anatomically, Broca’s area is most often larger on the left side of the brain, and imaging studies in humans had shown left-leaning patterns of brain activation during language-related tasks, the researchers said.

“We didn’t know if or to what extent other primates, and particularly humans’ closest ancestor, the chimpanzees, possess a comparable region involved in the production of their own communicative signals,” Taglialatela said.

In the new study, the researchers non-invasively scanned the brains of three chimpanzees as they gestured and called to a person in request for food that was out of their reach. Those chimps showed activation in the brain region corresponding to Broca’s area and in other areas involved in complex motor planning and action in humans, the researchers found.

The findings might be interpreted in one of two ways, Taglialatela said.

“One interpretation of our results is that chimpanzees have, in essence, a ‘language-ready brain,’ ” he said. “By this, we are suggesting that apes are born with and use the brain areas identified here when producing signals that are part of their communicative repertoire.

“Alternatively, one might argue that, because our apes were captive-born and producing communicative signals not seen often in the wild, the specific learning and use of these signals ‘induced’ the pattern of brain activation we saw. This would suggest that there is tremendous plasticity in the chimpanzee brain, as there is in the human brain, and that the development of certain kinds of communicative signals might directly influence the structure and function of the brain.”


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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Oldest Hominid Fossil Discovered Placed At 7 Million Years Old

toumai fossilFrench fossil hunters have pinned down the age of Toumai, which they contend is the remains of the earliest human ever found, at between 6.8 and 7.2 million years old.

The fossil was discovered in the Chadian desert in 2001 and an intense debate ensued over whether the nearly complete cranium, pieces of jawbone and teeth belonged to one of our earliest ancestors.

Critics said that Toumai's cranium was too squashed to be that of a hominid -- it did not have the brain capacity that gives humans primacy -- and its small size indicated a creature of no more than 120 centimetres (four feet) in height, about the size of a walking chimp.

In short, they said, Toumai had no right to be baptised with French researcher Michel Brunet's hominid honorific of Sahelanthropus tchadensis -- he was simply a vulgar ape.

Toumai's supporters used 3D computer reconstructions to show that the structure of the cranium had clear differences from those of gorillas and chimps and indicates that Toumai was able to walk upright on two feet, something our primate cousins cannot do with ease.

If Toumai is truly an early human, that means that the evolutionary split between apes and humans occurred far earlier than previously thought.

And pinning down his age is key to redrawing the evolutionary map.

"The radiochronological data concerning Sahelanthropus tchadensis ... is an important cornerstone both for establishing the earliest stages of hominid evolution and for new calibrations of the molecular clock," Brunet wrote in a study which will appear in the March 4 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Thus, Sahelanthropus tchadensis testifies that the last divergence between chimps and humans is certainly not much more recent than 8 Ma (million years ago.)"

Toumai also probably lived "very close in time to this divergence contrary to the unlikely 'provocative explanation,' which recently suggested a 'possible hybridization in the human-chimp lineage before finally separating less than 6.3 (million years ago)," the authors concluded.

If Toumai -- the name means "hope of life" in the local Goran language -- is accepted as a human, the implications are profound.

The fossil was found some 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) west of the Great Rift Valley. If that is still seen as humankind's ancestral home, it implies the early hominids ranged far wider from East Africa, and far earlier, than previously thought.

The discovery also implies hominids evolved quickly from apes after they split from a common primate ancestry.

Hominids are considered the forerunners of anatomically modern humans, who appeared on the scene about 200,000 years ago.

Still unclear, though, is the exact line of genealogy from these small, rather ape-like creatures to the rise of the powerfully-brained Homo sapiens.


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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Poachers Busted Trying To Capture And Export Monkeys To Korea To Be Eaten

A man was arrested in the early hours of February 21 for kidnapping monkeys from a popular tourist spot in Rasi Salai District. Police believe the monkeys were to be smuggled to Korea, to be eaten for perceived health-giving benefits.

At 3:30 am, Pol Lt Col Wisanu Reuangsri, an investigating officer at Rasi Salai District Police Station, received a phone call from Rian Phobutr, a resident of Village 5 in Tambon Wan Kham.

K. Rian, 58, said that a gang was catching monkeys at the nearby Wan Village Monkey Forest, a popular tourist attraction with a thousand-strong population of primates.

Col Wisanu rushed to the scene, where he found three people setting traps for the monkeys.

Also found was a cage containing three monkeys that the gang had already caught. Police arrested one of the gang but the other two managed to escape into the forest.

Police collected as evidence two monkey cages, 20 nets, a selection of various traps, hunting equipment, nuts and some bananas, which were used as bait. Police also seized a Toyota sedan belonging to the gang.

Arrested gang member Arun Kertphetch was taken to the police station for interrogation. Arun, 38, claimed that he was just the driver and had nothing to do with the monkey poaching.

The other two men had paid him 2,000 baht to drive to the forest and he assumed they were just going there to relax, he claimed.

If he had known what they were up to, he would never have agreed to take them, he said.

The only reason he had been caught was because he didn’t want to run away with the others and abandon his car, he added.

Arun said that when they got to the forest, he overheard the other two men saying that they would catch monkeys and export them to Korea, where they fetched three to five thousand baht. Some Koreans believe that monkey flesh, brain tissue in particular, is a strong tonic.

Police, however, found Arun’s story a little hard to swallow given that the gang had a plethora of professional monkey-catching equipment that Arun must have noticed as they were loading it into the car.

Police charged him with hunting a protected species without permission and being in possession of a protected species without permission.

Police said they would hunt for the other two members of the gang and expand the investigation to bust the entire monkey-to-Korea export ring.

Veterinarian Chitsanu Tiyacharoen, deputy president of the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand, said that the belief held by some Koreans that eating monkey brains is good for the body is completely false and that the Korean government is trying to wipe out the practice.

K. Chitsanu has a stern warning for anyone interested in discovering the alleged healing properties of monkey brains: “Eating monkey brains brings nothing but problems,” he said.

“Some people eat them and die soon afterwards because monkeys are very similar to humans and we can catch deadly diseases from them, such as hepatitis B and meningitis.”


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University Of Washington Under Investigation For Unauthorized Surgeries On Monkeys

primate centerIn a hidden part of the University of Washington campus, hundreds of monkeys live and die for research. They undergo experimental surgeries and tests until their usefulness is over.

The federal government pays the university millions for this research. But a Problem Solvers investigation has uncovered that some of those millions are in jeopardy and the university is under investigation because of unauthorized surgeries on monkeys.

Every year, UW scientists use hundreds of monkeys -- from babies to adults -- for all types of research that may help thousands of people.

Primate Center Director Dave Anderson offers one example of how their research helps: "We have other investigators in our Primate Center looking at ways to address, say, people who have strokes or people who have spinal chord injuries."

But over the past year and a half, one group of researchers at the university has been at the center of a series of investigations for performing dozens of unauthorized surgeries on monkeys.

"I think these are very serious violations," says PETA Primatologist Debra Durham. "They're surgeries on animals' heads and on their eyes."

Researchers implant coils on the monkeys' eyeballs, thread wires up the skull and put a metal cylinder - sometimes two - into holes drilled in the monkey's skull.

Through public disclosure requests we obtained thousands of pages of internal e-mails and reports from the UW and federal agencies. Some of the surgeries were approved, many more were not. We found evidence that some monkeys underwent a dozen or more surgeries, as the eye coils and head chambers were removed and replaced, again and again.

Durham has read the monkeys' medical records and says there is evidence many of them suffered. Describing one monkey, she says he, "pulls out his hair, he self-mutilates, he drinks his own urine."

Federal law requires all of the UW's animal researchers and experiments to be approved and enforced by the university's animal oversight group, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Nona Phillips, executive secretary of the committee, says their number-one concern is "humane treatment of the animals in the course of scientifically necessary research."

But there is evidence the IACUC ignored warnings about problems with too many surgeries on monkeys, and that even when a federal agency found protocol violations the committee chose to close the investigation rather than look deeper.

It started nearly two years ago when an international accrediting agency, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, put the University on probation. That was primarily for problems with its buildings and facilities -- the association's main focus.

But AAALAC also questioned the number of experimental surgeries on monkeys, as internal e-mails we found clearly show. When asked how UW's IACUC responded to those questions, Phillips said, "Well, AAALAC didn't give us a deficiency or anything like that about the number of surgeries performed on any given animal, it's up to the IACUC to approve those."

So the UW's oversight committee did nothing. Then, five months later at the end of October 2006, the USDA found that three of UW researcher Albert Fuchs' monkeys had had many more surgeries than the rules allowed.

As required, IACUC's Nona Phillips reported the violations with a phone call to UW Compliance Officer Sue Clausen. The Problem Solvers found handwritten notes of that conversation, where Clausen writes "it's probably the tip of the iceberg," and, referring to Phillips, "she's going to keep her head in sand on this."

When asked to what that referred, Phillips replied, "I really don't know Tracy."

So we asked Compliance Officer Clausen.

"I literally stood and wrote notes while she talked," Clausen said, adding that the notes aren't her deductions or inferences. What she wrote down, she said, are the words Nona Phillips actually used. But Clausen claims what Phillips said isn't what she meant.

When we asked Clausen if it's okay for Phillips as the head of the UW's Office of Animal Welfare to say that she's going to keep her head in the sand, Clausen replied, "I'm saying that she used terminology that didn't reflect her intent to not do the right thing. To presume that any of this implies that she's not looking out for the animals, that she's not doing her job is, well, ridiculous."

But after the USDA found violations, no one from the IACUC looked to see if there were more unauthorized surgeries.

Phillips admits the oversight committee didn't examine the rest of the monkeys in Dr. Fuchs' protocol, they didn't look at the other monkeys' medical records, they didn't check his lab logs and they didn't look at any other researchers to see if there were other problems.

Phillips said they didn't look further, "because we had no reason to think that the USDA had not identified all of the issues."

The university's IACUC closed the case on Dr. Fuchs with a letter of reprimand.

PETA's Durham called the matter shameful, and believes the University did put its head in the sand. "And when they choose to ignore violations, they're choosing to ignore suffering," she said.

PETA complained to the National Institutes of Health, which pays hundreds of millions of dollars to the University of Washington for animal research.

The NIH reopened the investigation and, only then did IACUC find that instead of one researcher and three monkeys subjected to too many experimental surgeries, there were 14 monkeys, five UW researchers, and 41 unauthorized surgeries.

The UW insists it did everything it should.

"No one was trying to cover it up," says Primate Center Director Anderson, "everyone was being absolutely forthright and honest about it."

The researchers under investigation brought in nearly $9 million in federal grant money. The NIH says it could be a couple more months before they determine how much of that money the university has to pay back.

Since the feds reopened their investigation, the UW has launched its own new oversight effort with paid staff to visit each research lab, examine their log books, and check their animals. But there are between 600 and 700 animal experiments going on at any one time at the UW, so it's an enormous task.


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Lemurs' Evolutionary History May Shed Light On Our Own

lemursAfter swabbing the cheeks of more than 200 lemurs and related primates to collect their DNA, researchers at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy (IGSP) and Duke Lemur Center now have a much clearer picture of their evolutionary family tree.

Found in nature only on the island nation of Madagascar, off Africa’s southeastern coast, lemurs and their close relatives the lorises represent the sister lineage to all other primates. And that makes lemurs key to understanding what distinguishes us and the rest of our primate cousins from all other animals, according to Julie Horvath, a post-doctoral researcher in the IGSP.

“If we find a trait or characteristic shared between lemurs and other primates, it can tell us what is or isn’t primate-specific and when those traits arose,” said Horvath, who works in the laboratory of IGSP director Huntington Willard.

The new “phylogenomic toolkit” the researchers developed will also play into conservation efforts aimed to save the critically endangered lemurs, by helping to define the number of existing species, said David Weisrock, a post-doctoral researcher working with Duke Lemur Center Director Anne Yoder.

Scientists uncover evolutionary relationships among species based on similarities and differences in their genetic codes. The increasing number of fully sequenced genomes available for major evolutionary groups has allowed resolution of relationships that had been considered unmanageable before.

But except for humans’ close evolutionary ties to chimpanzees, many of the relationships among other apes, monkeys and pre-monkeys called prosimians have remained somewhat murky, according to Horvath.

To find out where Madagascar’s lemurs fit in, the Duke team first needed to develop the tools for comparing sequences from the many lemur species to one another, and to those of other primates including humans.

The researchers identified stretches of DNA sequence held in common between the genomes of the human, the ringtailed lemur and the mouse lemur. These "conserved sequences" served as primers, allowing them to sample comparable bits of sequence across the genomes of the various primate species.

Their analysis confirmed that the first to branch off from the rest of the lemurs, some 66 million years ago, was the aye-aye--a nocturnal primate that taps on trees with its fingers to listen for insects inside, making it Madagascar’s version of a woodpecker. They also resolved the relationships among species within the remaining four evolutionary lineages, which includes a diverse cast of characters: the sifakas, named for the hissing “shee-fak” sound they make; the sportive lemurs, which are strictly nocturnal; the mouse lemurs, the smallest of all living primates; and the many so-called “true lemurs,” including the blue-eyed black lemur (one of only three blue-eyed primates in the world) and the ringtailed lemur, which is often found in zoos.

“By throwing this much data at the problem, we have absolutely confirmed, beyond any statistical doubt, that the spectacular array of lemurs all descended from a single ancestral species,” said Yoder, noting that lemurs account for about 20 percent of primate species and live on less than one percent of the earth’s surface. “It further highlights the importance of Madagascar as a cradle for biodiversity.”

The study lays the groundwork for doing future studies of lemurs and other primates. The methods the group developed for this study can also be applied to understanding evolutionary relationships among other animal groups for which genomic sequences are hard to come by.


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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Moment Of Orangutan Zen...

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Fossil Remains Of New Primate Species Found

Siamoadapis maemohensis primate fossilsFossilized bones of a previously unknown, long-extinct, small primate have been discovered in a coal mine in Lampang's Mae Moh district.

Geologists from the Department of Mineral Resources found the fossils in 2004 in the coal bed of the mine, owned by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

They spent four years verifying that the 13-million-year-old primate is a new species. It has been given the name Siamoadapis maemohensis.

The discovery will be published in the Journal of Human Evolution next month.

The newly discovered species is considered the smallest ancient primate, with a length of only 15 centimetres and weighing an estimated 500 grammes, team leader Yaowalak Chaimanee said.

''We have found four lower teeth, which helped us identify it as belonging to the family Sivaladapidae, which was found only in Asia _ mainly in China, Burma, India and Thailand _ from the mid-Eocene period [about 40 million years ago] until the lower Miocene [about eight million years ago],'' she said.

''With its small size, it would have probably have eaten insects and fruit.'' She said Siamoadapis maemohensis was a kind of Strepsirrhine. Lemurs and slow loris are believed to have developed from the species.

The discovery confirms the importance of the Mae Moh coal mine as a fossil site. The spot where the fossils were found is about two kilometres from the 43-rai area where a 13-million-year old snail fossil deposit was earlier found.

Sitting in layers of up to 12 metres deep, the site is believed to be the richest known freshwater snail fossil deposit in the world.


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Monkey Wedding Pulls In The Crowds In India

monkeys marriedSeveral thousand guests have solemnized an elaborate Hindu wedding ceremony between two monkeys in India's eastern Orissa state.

At the ceremony Jhumri, the two-year old monkey 'bride' sported a crimson red sari, a tiara of flowers and had her forehead smeared with sandalwood paste whilst Manu the 'groom' was his swashbuckling self, sporting only a chain and collar at a temple in Ghanteswara village, 125 miles from the state capital Bhubaneshwar.

In keeping with tradition, three-year old Manu accompanied by a band playing raucous music and hundreds of dancing guests was received formally by the bride's family close to the marriage venue.

Her elaborately dressed 'relatives' intoned loud chants normal at a Hindu wedding and to the accompaniment of fireworks showered the brown-eyed groom with flowers as he approached the coy 'bride', lounging bewilderedly in her 'mother's' lap to garland her.

Thereafter, a Brahmin priest completed the wedding rituals around a fire, considered sacred by Hindus.

"It was a unique experience for me. It was the first time I conducted a marriage between two animals. But I followed all the rituals that I do in human marriages", priest Daitari Dash said.

The monkeys were then presented with gifts, mostly bananas and coconuts, but also a gold necklace for the bride donated by a local businessman.

"I feel as if my own daughter is getting married. I cannot bear the thought that she would not be with us anymore" Mamina, the woman who has been looking after Jhumri after her husband found her at a local temple, said.

Her 'groom' was caught in a neighbouring mango orchard by a couple who raised him as their pet.

After the wedding the couple, chained till now, were released by their owners and took up residence in a nearby park.

Monkeys are considered holy by India's majority Hindu community that associates them with the god Hanuman.

Millions of Indians visit Hanuman temples every Tuesday and anyone trying to trap or scare off monkeys is frequently beaten up or chased away.

Killing the animals is out of the question and most people believe feeding the animals is propitious.

Over the years this has had a disastrous effect across the capital New Delhi, where bands of marauding monkeys create chaos.

Powerful policy-makers and their equally influential assistants walk warily down passageways in North and South Blocks that house amongst others the prime minister's office and the defence and home ministries, for fear of being set upon by monkeys concealed in niches in the imposing colonial buildings.

The offices of India's chief of army staff who heads the world's third largest military force too are barricaded against monkeys.

A former army chief once talking of nuclear war was forced to pause after monkeys began banging loudly on the roof above him, apologising for the interruption over which the military had no control.


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Friday, February 22, 2008

Twin Orangutans Reach Milestone On Saturday

twin orangutansShe is a bit plumper, he a bit more jowly, and they are both slowing down a little. But as they turn 40, Woodland Park Zoo's twin orangutans still fascinate and amuse generations of visitors.

When twin orangutans Towan and Chinta were born at Woodland Park Zoo in 1968, Life magazine ran a picture of the babies and noted that the "twinkle-eyed creatures" were the first orangutan twins born in captivity.

Towan and his twin sister Chinta are celebrating their big birthday Saturday with a party, cupcakes, and a visit from old friends. Eric Sano, who was 6 when he won a contest to name the orangutans, will be among the guests. He is now a lieutenant with the Seattle Police Department.

At 40, Towan and Chinta are among the oldest orangutans in an American zoo. In captivity, orangutans can live well into their 50s. Orangutans are highly endangered. Trees in their native habitats in Borneo and Sumatra are harvested for lumber and palm oil.

Towan and Chinta have lived through some big changes in zoos, including the trend away from concrete enclosures to more naturalistic exhibits as zoos work to educate and encourage conservation. As youngsters, Towan and Chinta lived in the ape house, along with the gorillas and chimpanzees, with a screened area for outdoor play.

Chinta and Towan are both parents and live with three younger orangutans, all with their own personalities. Towan weighs about 300 pounds and is often seen with a square of burlap draped over his back. He is artistic and has a helpful personality. Two of Towan's original hand-painted artworks recently sold on eBay for $720 and $612.

Chinta weighs about 168 and can be recognized by her "cereal bowl" hairstyle. She loves to stare back at zoo visitors, and especially likes looking at their ears, said her keepers

The orangutans' names reflect their heritage, another change in the past 40 years or so. Earlier, zoo animals were often given cute names. The orangutans' mother and father were caught in the wild and named Molly and Elvis.

Sano laughs about being forever linked to two orangutans. He still remembers choosing the names as a youngster growing up in Bellevue. He and his brother both entered the contest. He said he went to the library with his mom and searched through a list of Indonesian words and translations.

Towan means "master" and Chinta means "sweetheart," he said.

Even more clearly, he remembers being invited into the nursery to feed the gorillas, while his classmates and others watched through a window.

"It was really exciting," Sano said this week. "It is kind of a weird thing. Here I am 46 years old and a father, and I am getting these calls on it. It was a dream come true, feeding those orangutan twins."

Pat Backlund was a young nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Washington when she was asked to go to the zoo and help feed the babies just days after they were born.

The babies were full-term, but small, about 3 pounds for the boy, and under 2 pounds for the girl. They wouldn't suckle, and zookeepers were worried. There were no veterinarians on staff, so they called the hospital for help.

"It was kind of exciting to be in on something like that. It was a first for the zoo," she said.

"I am glad to hear that they are still in good health and their future was bright."


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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Himachal To Pay Public For Catching Nuisance Monkeys

monkey catchingCatching a monkey in Himachal Pradesh would soon a become rewarding endeavour as wildlife officials here are thinking of involving the public and giving them a cash prize for catching the menacing simians.

"We are preparing a proposal to involve people in capturing monkeys by offering them monetary benefits," said Vinay Tandon, chief of the State wildlife department.

The proposal, if accepted by the government, will be introduced in monkey-infested zones. The captured animals will be shifted to primate protection centres that are to be set up in Shimla and Naduan in Hamirpur district.

Officials said Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had asked the wildlife department to prepare a proposal to catch monkeys and shift them to these primate protection parks.

The department is likely to offer Rs 400 for catching a monkey, the officials said. However, it isn't clear if there is a plan to train people to do so.

The State government is already carrying out monkey sterilisations in and around Shimla for the past one year. But of the 30,000 monkeys in the hill State, only 1,000 have been sterilised so far.

In the past, the government had captured monkeys with the help of experts from urban centres and shifted them to rural areas. This had angered villagers and farmers as the horses of simians had damaged standing crops.


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Africa's Great Lakes Nations Unite To Protect Gorillas

gorillasThree Great Lakes nations on Wednesday launched a joint project to protect the rare mountain gorillas that are threatened with extinction in the east central African region.

About 720 critically endangered mountain gorillas remain in the wild, all of them in the mountain forests of Rwanda, Uganda and the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The first four years of the "10-year strategic project" is funded by the Dutch government and is aimed at protecting the mountain gorillas and their habitat as well adressing poaching and encroachment that have blighted the rare species.

The scheme will include measures to improve the lives of the communities who depend on the nearby national parks for survival, said Uganda Wildlife Authority spokeswoman Lillian Nsubuga.

"About four million euro (5.8 million dollars) will go into this project," she told AFP, adding that the three nations derive about five million dollars (3.4 million euros) a year from interest in the mountain gorillas, including tourism.

Officials said project will seek strengthening and harmonisation of the three countries' policies and laws on the conservation and management of protected areas and the associated natural resources.

In addition, they called for political support from their respective governments to the ongoing transboundary conservation initiatives.

"The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) is to ensure the conservation of mountain gorillas and their regional afromontane forest habitat in Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC," according to a joint statement by wildlife officials in the three nations.

Ten mountain gorillas have been killed and two have gone missing in the DRC Virunga park since January 2007. These deaths, some blamed on fighters loyal to cashiered DRC general Laurent Nkunda, have sparked outrage among conservationists.

After two were killed and eaten in January last year, the renegade troops pledged to halt the killings in a meeting with Virunga park officials mediated by the United Nations and Congolese army, but the deal fell apart.

Local and foreign militias as well as Congolese soldiers, poachers and illegal miners regularly cross this area of the park, one of Africa's largest.

According to conservationists, about 720 critically endangered mountain gorillas -- estimated figures as follows: 340 in Uganda, 250 in Rwanda and 130 in eastern DRC -- remain in the wild, all of them in the mountainious forests in the three countries.

There are 1,100 rangers protecting five national parks -- four of which are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- in eastern DRC. Some 150 rangers have been killed while on duty in the past decade.


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Judge Orders Chimps Brought Back To Primarily Primates

chimpsA district court judge ruled Friday that six chimpanzees at the center of a fight between San Antonio-based Primarily Primates and Chimp Haven in Louisiana must be returned to Primarily Primates.

Chimp Haven took the group of retired research chimps from Primarily Primates in November 2006 after Primarily Primates was sued by the Texas attorney general and placed in receivership. After the lawsuit was dismissed in April 2007, Chimp Haven refused to return the animals, according to court documents.

"Once we were given back the sanctuary and we agreed to complete the enclosures that were started before the receivership," said Primarily Primates lawyer Eric Turton, "at that point we requested the chimps back and Chimp Haven refused to return them."

"It's pretty much a complete victory for us," Turton said of Friday's decision by 285th District Judge Michael Peden.

Originally behavioral research animals at Ohio State University, the retired chimpanzees were moved to San Antonio in March 2006. OSU pledged more than $30,000 so Primarily Primates could build enclosures for the animals and provide for their care.

The group of seven animals was transferred to Chimp Haven in fall 2006 after the attorney general successfully petitioned an Austin court to appoint a receiver to run the sanctuary. One chimp died last month.

The receiver moved dozens of animals to other sanctuaries and zoos around the country, saying Primarily Primates was overcrowded.

In a petition to have the chimps returned to Primarily Primates, the sanctuary cited a Bexar County ordinance that prohibits members of the general public from possessing "wild animals" as the sole reason for Chimp Haven's refusal to return them. But Primarily Primates has a state permit to operate, the petition says, although the permit is under the name of its executive director, Stephen Tello.

In a statement that names Sarah, Keeli, Ivy, Sheeba, Harper and Emma as the chimps in question, officials at Chimp Haven said that when it was asked to take the chimps, the animals were in need of medical attention and better housing.

"We are disappointed that the court does not consider what is in the chimpanzees' best interest, but instead must rule on 'property' issues," Chimp Haven Director Linda Brent said in the statement. "We are investigating options for appeal of the decision."


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Imitating Monkey's 'Jumping Genes' Could Lead To New Treatments For HIV

UCL (University College London) scientists have taken a significant step in understanding how retroviruses such as HIV can move between species and the biological mechanisms behind the 'jumping genes' which make some monkeys immune. They will now use this knowledge to develop a gene therapy treatment for HIV/AIDS in humans.

The international team of researchers, coordinated by Professor Greg Towers, UCL Infection and Immunity, and funded by the Wellcome Trust, have identified a combination of genes in a species of monkey that protects against retroviruses -- a particularly opportunistic family of viruses that can integrate into the host's genome and replicate as part of the cell's DNA.

Professor Towers explained: "HIV causes AIDS and affects around 40 million people worldwide. Research has shown that HIV entered the human population from a chimpanzee retrovirus called SIV early in the 20th century. In order for a virus to successfully cross the species barrier and jump into a new species, it first has to bypass the new host's innate immune system, mediated by a combination of genes and proteins. One such gene, called TRIM5, has been shown to protect certain species from retroviruses -- but unfortunately the human TRIM5 gene does not protect against HIV infection."

The team found that a species of Asian monkey called Rhesus Macaques have a sophisticated 'antiviral arsenal' that can protect them against retroviruses. By closely examining TRIM5 in this species, they demonstrate that in some monkeys another gene called Cyclophilin has been joined to the TRIM5 gene, generating a TRIMCyp fusion.

Dr Sam Wilson, the paper's first author, said: "Cyclophilin is very good at grabbing viruses as they enter cells. By fusing Cyclophilin to TRIM5, a gene is made that is good at grabbing viruses and good at destroying them. This is the second time that this fusion has been identified -- a TRIMCyp gene also exists in South American Owl Monkeys and, until now, this was thought to be an evolutionary one-off.

"This new research shows that a TRIMCyp has evolved independently in two separate species -- it's like lightening has struck twice. It's a remarkable example of convergent evolution, where organisms independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments. It also highlights the evolutionary selection pressure that viruses like HIV can apply."

Professor Greg Towers explained further: "The discovery is a compelling example of how 'jumping genes' can shuffle an organism's genetic makeup, generating useful new genes, and it is an exciting possibility for novel treatments for HIV/AIDS.

"About 25 per cent of Rhesus Macaques have the TRIM5 and a TRIMCyp gene, greatly expanding their antiviral arsenal. The others have an immunity, based around TRIM5, that protects them against a different combination of viruses. The gene seems to be evolving to protect the individual species from a range of different virus sequences."

Professor Towers and his team now aim to develop humanised TRIMCyp that blocks HIV infection by artificially fusing human Cyclophilin and human TRIM5. Professor Towers said: "We can then introduce the TRIMCyp into stem cells, using gene therapy technologies, and the stem cells could repopulate the patient with blood cells that are immune to HIV. This work, already underway, could offer a real possibility of novel treatments for HIV/AIDS."


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Monday, February 18, 2008

Florida Zoo Welcomes New Baby Primate

primate bornThe Central Florida Zoo is asking for help to name a baby primate born just one week ago.

It looks like a baby monkey, but it's actually a lesser spot-nosed guenon.

"(It's) another successful birth. One that's very rare, so we're very excited," Central Florida Zoo curator Bonnie Breitbeil said.

The baby weighs only a few pounds, and zookeepers said they're not yet sure if it's a male or female because it won't let go of its mother.

"We will not handle the baby for a while because it's very important for that bond to develop between the mother and the baby, and we don't want to interrupt and nursing behavior or anything like that," Breitbeil said.

Zookeepers said the baby is healthy, but there's one thing missing.

They're looking for help to name the baby, and they've suggested five names and will accept more suggestions.

WESH.com is also providing a Web cam where viewers can see what the mother and baby are doing at anytime.

The most popular name for the baby will be announced on Friday.


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Friday, February 15, 2008

Monkey’s Owner Sued In Wake Of 2003 Birthday Party Incident

wyatt monkeyIt seemed like a good idea at the time.

Take a gaggle of 10- and 11-year-olds at a birthday party, throw in a couple of rented monkeys and just sit back and let the camcorders roll.

“The monkeys hopped from shoulder to shoulder and from person to person,” said Susan Vanlandingham of Leawood, who was throwing the birthday bash for her son, Ben. “It seemed like a free-for-all. … We thought, ‘This is great.’ ”

But when one of the monkeys, a little Capuchin named Wyatt, jumped on a child grabbing for Cheetos, it kicked off a litigation battle that still isn’t resolved five years later. Even today, there is disagreement over whether Wyatt bit the child twice or just scratched him.

This week, Ron Aryel, the former Johnson County public health officer who ordered that Wyatt be euthanized to be tested for rabies, filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit against Wyatt’s owner, Debbie Barnett of Paola.

Barnett had sued Aryel and other health officials in 2005 for allegedly putting Wyatt down needlessly; that lawsuit in Miami County District Court was dismissed last summer.

“He can sue away,” Barnett said Thursday, after learning of Aryel’s lawsuit against her. “I have nothing.”

Five months after the birthday-party incident on May 7, 2003, she said, the stress of it caused her and her husband to separate. She had been working as a veterinary technician for him, so she stopped that too. And that birthday party was the last time she’s taken any of her monkeys to a public event.

“I lost my marriage, I lost my profession. I lost my life. But the worst thing was we killed a nonhuman primate who was in the middle of this whole thing for nothing.”

Attorney Arthur Benson, who is representing Aryel, said he imagines Barnett was close to 4-year-old Wyatt, just as people are close to their pets.

“I’m sure she feels very upset about it but that’s not a reason to haul off and sue,” Benson said.

Because Aryel was a contract employee with Johnson County, he had to hire his own attorney to defend himself against Barnett’s lawsuit, Benson said. Aryel’s federal lawsuit in Kansas City, Kan., seeks compensation for that, as well as for the damage he says he suffered to his reputation and the emotional distress he endured.

Aryel, who referred questions to his attorney, is no longer working for the county.

While the 2003 birthday party was in progress, the incident with Wyatt and the 11-year-old boy did not seem like that big a deal, said Vanlandingham, who was holding the party in her backyard.

But afterward, the mother of the boy called a doctor and the dreaded word rabies entered the conversation. She learned that rabies is life-threatening and that her son would have to undergo a grueling series of shots unless authorities could test the monkey to ensure he did not have rabies.

“It was very scary,” said the mother, who asked not to be identified.

Aryel maintains he consulted with other health officials and determined that the only way to find out if Wyatt had rabies was to euthanize him and conduct tests on his brain. Barnett objected, and said in her lawsuit that a health officer in Miami County was exploring other options.

Barnett and her then veterinarian-husband had obtained Wyatt from a zoological park in Missouri, Barnett said. He had lived with them since he was a day old and was like a child to them.

Barnett said Wyatt was never exposed to any wild animals or any animals infected with rabies. In fact, she said, Wyatt and the other monkeys they owned had been vaccinated against rabies.


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Winnipeg Zookeeper 'Adopts' Baby Monkey

cj monkeyA zookeeper at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo has taken on round-the-clock care for an orphaned baby squirrel monkey.

The monkey, dubbed CJ, was born Nov. 2. He lost his mother to an infection when he was just a month old.

Since then, he has been cared for by Jacquie Randall, a zookeeper who has become his surrogate mother.

"He's a real character," she said Thursday as her charge crawled around her head, peeking in her ears and poking at her teeth.

"He's typical of what you'd think of for a monkey — always getting into trouble, always getting into things."

CJ goes home with Randall, riding in a special car seat, and sleeps in a cage filled with plush animals larger than he is.

"For the first month and a half, he was fed round the clock every three hours, now he lets me sleep until six," she said.

CJ is tiny, weighing only 300 grams. He's starting to eat a small amount of solid food — mainly bits of fruits and vegetables. Like most children, zoo officials say, "he is terrified of broccoli."

Randall is gradually introducing CJ to his monkey family. He is expected to move in with them in the next few months.

"Right now, all I do is I stand outside cage with him… and get him used to the sounds," she said. "But I also made a video of his family, so at home in his room, I play video so he can start to learn squirrel-monkey talk and start to learn how to interact with them."

This isn't the first time Randall has cared for orphaned or abandoned animals. In the last year, she's taken home parrots, eagles, a kangaroo, an alpaca, and a reindeer.

She's also cared for a baby monkey before, but says CJ — short for Carl Junior, after her fiancé — is special.

"I love him," she said with a laugh. "I'm his mom, so I'll talk about him all day.


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Young Orangutan Hangs Herself In Freak Zoo Accident

atina orangutanA young orang-utan has died of a dislocated neck in a "freak accident" at the Singapore zoo - the second primate death in a week.

Atina caught her neck in a hanging noose that was part of a hammock in the ape enclosure, a spokesman for the zoo said today.

Her mother, Anita, and other orang-utans tried to free the infant, he said. By tugging at her neck, they dislocated it.

Zookeepers said they could not reach Atina in time to save her because the mother kept pushing them away.

All hanging nooses have been removed from the enclosure.

The death came three days after the zoo buried Ah Meng, its star attraction and internationally acclaimed orang-utan who died at the age of 48 last Friday.


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Monkey Attack Nearly Kills Woman

In a freak incident, monkey menace on Gomati barrage surfaced with a totally new dimension on Wednesday morning giving a housewife a very close shave with death.

Incidents of monkey gangs striking at the roadside stalls near the Gomati barrage to feast on the fruits are no longer a rare occurrence. But the monkey menace emerged with a unexpected shade around 7 am on Wednesday when a woman - later identified as middle-aged Rashmi, a resident of Gokhale Marg - reached the barrage to perform puja before the rising Sun. The woman had barely started with the rituals when a group of monkeys began closing in on her. Familiar with the atmosphere, the woman paid no heed to the four legged unwanted companion.

But things took a turn for the worse when one of the monkeys began to approach her. In order to scare away the monkey, the woman raised her hand. The monkey retaliated by charging at her. The panic struck lady, standing right besides the steel railing of the barrage, was so badly shaken that she lost her balance, toppled over the steel railing and fell into the river.

Luckily, there were a few boatmen fishing in the river who saw the mishap and jumped into the freezing waters to save the woman, who was by then crying for help. Finally, two boatmen managed to rescue the woman safely to the banks of the river.

She was then rushed to Lohia Hospital where the doctors attended her. A visibly shaken and badly shivering Rashmi spend at least an hour at the hospital before she was discharged.


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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gorillas Caught Mating Face-To-Face For The First Time

gorillas mating face to face
gorillas caught mating face-to-face first time
Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have released the first known photographs of gorillas performing face-to-face copulation in the wild. This is the first time that western gorillas have been observed and photographed mating in such a manner.

The photographs were part of a study conducted in a forest clearing in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo that appeared in a recent issue of The Gorilla Gazette.

"Understanding the behavior of our cousins the great apes sheds light on the evolution of behavioral traits in our own species and our ancestors," said Thomas Breuer, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and WCS and lead author of the study. "It is also interesting that this same adult female has been noted for innovative behaviors before."

The western lowland gorilla is listed as Critically Endangered as a result of hunting by humans, habitat destruction, and health threats such as the Ebola virus.

The female gorilla in the photograph, nicknamed "Leah" by researchers, made history in 2005 when she was observed using tools -- another never-before-seen behavior for her kind in the wild. Breuer and others witnessed Leah using a stick to test the depth of a pool of water before wading into it in Mbeli Bai, where researchers have been monitoring the gorilla population since 1995.

Researchers say that few primates mate in a face-to-face position, known technically as ventro-ventral copulation; most primate species copulate in what's known as the dorso-ventral position, with both animals facing in the same direction. Besides humans, only bonobos have been known to frequently employ ventro-ventral mating positions. On a few occasions, mountain gorillas have been observed in ventro-ventral positions, but never photographed. Western gorillas in captivity have been known to mate face-to-face, but not in the wild, which makes this observation a noteworthy first.

"Our current knowledge of wild western gorillas is very limited, and this report provides information on various aspects of their sexual behavior," added Breuer, whose study is funded by the Brevard Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Max Planck Society, Sea World & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Toronto Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society and Woodland Park Zoo. "We can't say how common this manner of mating is, but it has never been observed with western gorillas in the forest. It is fascinating to see similarities between gorilla and human sexual behavior demonstrated by our observation."


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European Commission Deflects EP Declaration On Ending Primate Research

The European Commission has declined to set a deadline for phasing out the use of non-human primates in scientific research, saying this is “not possible at present as scientific development has not reached the stage that would make such a programming realistic”.

It was responding to a written declaration adopted by the European Parliament last September, which called on the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the Parliament to establish a timetable for replacing all primates used in scientific research with suitable alternatives as part of the current review of Directive 86/609/EC. According to the declaration, over 10,000 primates are used in experiments in EU laboratories each year.

Noting that experiments on non-human primates have been “one of the central points of focus” throughout the preparatory work for the revision of Directive 86/609/EEC, the Commission said primates were already used “only in exceptional circumstances where no alternative methods are available and no other species may suffice for the purposes of the research”. In the majority of these cases (67%), it added, primates were required by legislation for testing the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals.

Among the species still used for scientific research are macaques, marmosets, vervets and baboons. A number of EU member states have taken legislative action to prohibit the use of great apes for experiments, and the last use of great apes in the EU (chimpanzees) was reported in 1999, the Commission pointed out.

It is also looking at the possibility of banning the use of great apes in experiments throughout the EU, other than in research aimed at the preservation of the species. “A similar approach is being considered for animals caught in the wild, with specific exceptions on scientific grounds,” the Commission said.

Given the current state of knowledge, though, using other species of non-human primates in limited numbers remains “unavoidable for several vital research programmes”, such as those addressing immune-based diseases (e.g., multiple sclerosis), neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc), infectious diseases (HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, severe acute respiratory syndrome, etc.) and other serious conditions, the Commission stated.

It noted that 12 out of 17 diseases listed by the World Health Organization under its programme to fight epidemics and pandemics required the use of non-human primates during the development, production or testing of related vaccines and medicines.

“Some alternative techniques are available and have been successfully used to reduce our need to resort to non-human primates,” the Commission commented. “However, it is recognised that, with the current scientific knowledge, not enough alternative methods are yet available to replace the use of non-human primates in all areas of biomedical research today, nor in the near future.”

Amendments to Directive 86/609/EC, which provides for the protection of laboratory animals in research across all EU industrial sectors, “can incorporate strong incentives combined with a specific review clause to provide the appropriate and effective mechanism to move towards the ultimate goal of phasing out the use of non-human primates in experiments”, the Commission promised. It is “convinced that this goal can only be achieved with a vision, close co-operation and combined effort of all concerned”.

The UK's Biotechnology Industry Association (BIA) said it “strongly welcomes this robust response from the European Commission” to Parliament’s written declaration.


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London Zoo Celebrates Rare Monkey Birth

rare monkey birth
monkey birth london
vale monkey born
monkey born
A tiny monkey made its first public appearance today after being the first to be born in London Zoo's new rainforest biome.

Vale, a red titi monkey, was born to mother Yara and father Thiago last month, but the zoo announced the arrival today.

Zookeepers do not yet know if the baby is male or female, but came up with the name to mark the birth in time for Valentine's Day.

Staff said the baby's parents were so devoted to each other that they regularly slept with their tails entwined.

Vale spent the first weeks of life clinging to its father's back, but has now started to make short journeys alone, staff said.


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Monday, February 11, 2008

Monkeys Can Recognize Each Others Voices

monkeys speechOur ability to talk has much more ancient origins than thought, according to a brain scan study has blurred one of the key differences between monkeys and humans.

Scientists at the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, have found a "voice" area in the brain of rhesus macaque monkeys.

The find refutes the idea that the ability to speak suddenly emerged only with our most recent extinct ancestors a couple of hundred thousand years ago and pushes this ability back much further, given that we shared an ancestor with monkeys up to 30 million years ago.

Researchers have long wondered why certain fundamental characteristics of vocal communications are present in all languages, and the work published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience suggests that part of the reason is that the machinery of communication is ancient, dating back to our distant ancestors, when it likely began with expressions and calls.

The research group in the laboratory of Prof Nikos Logothetis used a non-invasive scanning technique, which has become a standard tool for understanding human brain function, to image macaque monkeys, one of our distant primate relatives.

In their study Dr Christopher Petkov and colleagues describe the discovery of a monkey "voice" area, a part of the brain that appears to be important for an individual to recognise verbal communications from other members of their species.

"We show that the function of the monkey brain during verbal recognition is very similar to what had been described in humans," he says, marking the most ancient primate brain function that supports verbal communication.

The study shows that the voice area - a part called the anterior superior temporal cortex - wasn't active to just any sound, since they played a range, including scrambled sounds and natural sounds.

Instead, this brain area preferred sounds made by animals from the same species, underlining how the coos, grunts and screams had meaning.

Hence, this brain region plays a central role in the communication between members of this species, supporting their social interactions and contributing to their survival.

In addition, the scientists also found that this voice area is sensitive to the identity of the individual that was making the calls.

Consequently, the scientists conclude that this area can support multiple verbal recognition abilities, such as helping the listener to recognise the acoustical signature or the 'voice of the species', as well as the voices of different individuals.

Many people doubt that there is much to be learned from other animals about human language. But this study strongly backs the argument that voice areas were conserved in primates over millions of years of evolution, challenging the notion that higher-level verbal communication can only be achieved by the human brain.

"This discovery in monkeys and the link to the human work is exciting because the animals are now helping us to understand how this brain area recognises voices in a way that we cannot in humans," says Dr Petkov, who led the study.

The researchers believe that their discovery will provide pathways for understanding clinical conditions such as phonagnosia, where patients show deficits in voice recognition and verbal communication prohibiting them from recognising the voice of someone that they know.


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