Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rogue Monkey Accused Of Attempted Rapes

monkeyLocals in the Indian village of Cherukulapadu are claiming a sex-crazed monkey has attempted a series of rapes on local women.

According to The Sun newspaper, the 3ft langur monkey had lived peacefully beside villagers in the Hyderabad region for years.

But the primate was overcome by lust after watching a couple engaged in amorous activities in a field, and is said to be copying the behavior.

An elderly woman is reported to have died of shock after the monkey jumped on her.

A local villager said: "It's awful. It keeps trying to do what it saw in the field!

"We're waiting for a forestry team to catch it" she added.

India has had problems with monkey violence in the past, and in some areas has resorted to training larger, more violent monkeys to combat the pests.

Last year the deputy mayor of Delhi was killed after being attacked by a hoard of wild monkeys on a balcony.

In another incident in Delhi a monkey is claimed to have snatched a two-year-old baby from its mother's arms.

The city now employs monkey catchers to round them up and return them to nearby forests. Local authorities have met resistance when they try to move the monkeys to other areas.

Culling the creatures is seen as unacceptable to devout Hindus, who see the monkeys as manifestations of the god Hanuman and often feed them.


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Chimps Found To Take More Risks Than Bonobos and Humans

bonobosIt's late at night, you are in a town that you don't know very well and all the restaurants are closing.

You are famished, and spot a stall that will sell you a small snack.

Should you take the snack or venture further, hoping to find a place that will serve you a hearty meal but knowing that you may also find nothing?

Most of us would go for the safe option -- we prefer to have at least a little to eat rather than take the risk of going hungry if the quest for a bigger reward goes awry.

Scientists have carried out an innovative experiment among our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, in an attempt to explain why this is so.

In a paper appearing on Wednesday in Biology Letters, published by Britain's Royal Society, US and German animal behaviouralists recruited five chimps and five bonobos at a primate research centre at Leipzig Zoo, eastern Germany.

The apes had to choose between two upside-down bowls.

One was the "safe" bowl, which always covered four grape halves.

The other was the "risky" bowl, which covered between one piece and as many as seven pieces of grape halves.

Chimpanzees turned out to be big risk-takers, being invariably tempted to go for the grand prize even if this also meant frequent disappointment.

Bonobos, like humans, were strongly risk-adverse, and preferred to go for the fixed, dependable reward.

The chimps' love of risk is in keeping with previous findings. Compared with bonobos, chimpanzees are more patient, waiting longer to get their hands on a delayed treat.

And their risk-taking strategy is also confirmed by the fact that, unlike bonobos, they hunt, kill and eat colobus monkeys. If the hunt comes off, the group gets to feast on protein-rich colobus meat -- if not, they all go hungry.

The distinction is intriguing, because in many respects the two primate species are very similar, having diverged from a common ancestor less than a million years ago, which in evolutionary terms is recent.

They have similar body size and appearance and share much of the same behaviour and social hierarchy.

The difference, though, lies in their diet. Both apes feed heavily on fruit, but bonobos also tuck into herbaceous vegetation on the ground, which is a more reliable source of sustenance.

In addition, bonobos may also have access to larger fruit patches, facing less competition within a given patch than chimpanzees.

So what makes chimps gamble is a clever survival mechanism -- their food resources are less certain, which means they have learnt to cope with going for big or bust, say the authors, led by Sarah Heilbronner of Harvard University and Duke University, North Carolina.

The results show how ecological pressures can sculpt decision-making, a tenet that also applies to humans, they believe.

"As humans did not evolve in the context of modern economies, many of our preferences are likely tailored to providing adaptive foraging and other evolutionary-relevant decisions," they say.

Thus, when you venture into the urban jungle late at night, with your eyes, ears and nose alert to the sight, sizzle and smell of a double cheeseburger, you are obeying the same genetic drivers as your hunter-gatherer forebears, millions of years ago.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mandy The Mandrill Dies At 19

mandy mandrillMandy, the 19-year-old mandrill with the ruby-colored snout who has delighted visitors at the Franklin Park Zoo since 1989, died while on exhibit inside the Tropical Forest.

The primate with the olive fur was “acting normally” Sunday morning but was found dead that afternoon in the exhibit, according to a statement released today. The cause of Mandy’s death was not immediately known, but she had inoperable fibroid tumors and suffered from chronic endometriosis, said Dr. Hayley Weston Murphy, the zoo’s head veterinarian. Final necropsy results will not be available for several weeks.

A close cousin of the baboon, mandrills are native to tropical forests in Cameroon and Gabon in Western Africa. They are favorites of zoo visitors because the males have brilliant blue and red noses and hairless rumps, which can also be a vibrant crimson. While the hues on females are muted, the tip of Mandy’s nose was still bright.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Mandy. Our veterinary team took extraordinary care of her as they do with all of the animals in our collection,” said John Linehan, president and chief executive officer of Zoo New England. “We have a long history of exhibiting mandrills at our Zoos and Mandy’s loss will certainly be felt by our staff and by the many visitors who have come to know her in the many years she was with us.”

In 2002, Mandy and her mate, Charley, had a son named Woody who is now exhibited at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Fla.


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Monday, March 24, 2008

Monkey Enjoys Brief Escape From Fresno Zoo

A small monkey managed to escape from his enclosure Friday morning at Fresno Chaffee Zoo, but he did not get far, zoo officials said.

Kijani, a 10-pound white and black colobus monkey, was seen on top of his enclosure shortly before 10 a.m. by a keeper.

But he never left the top of the enclosure, which is across from the zoo's concession stand, said Patty Peters, the zoo's director of marketing. A colobus monkey does not pose a danger to visitors, she said.

The zoo remained open, but the eastern portion -- with the bear, anteaters, lemurs and binturong -- was closed to visitors while staff tried to coax Kijani from the top of his cage.

"He just sat there. He didn't go anywhere," Peters said.

About 12:30 p.m., after feeding the monkey grapes spiked with a tranquilizer, zoo officials decided to use a dart-type tranquilizer to end the stalemate.

After being struck by the tranquilizer, Kijani was taken to the zoo's hospital, where he was recovering from sedation Friday afternoon, Peters said.

Later Friday afternoon, zoo staff determined the escape was caused by keeper error, she said. The zoo has four colobus monkeys in the exhibit.

In 2004, Siabu the orangutan broke out of her enclosure at the zoo, causing zookeepers to temporarily close the zoo.

Siabu returned to her enclosure on her own within 10 minutes with no harm done.


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Friday, March 21, 2008

Ancient Lemur's Little Finger Poses Scientific Mystery

Analysis of the first hand bones belonging to an ancient lemur has revealed a mysterious joint structure that has scientists puzzled.

Pierre Lemelin, an assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and a team of fellow American researchers have analyzed the first hand bones ever found of Hadropithecus stenognathus, a lemur that lived 2,000 years ago. The bones were discovered in 2003 in a cave in southeastern Madagascar, an island nation off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Hadropithecus is related to the modern-day sifaka, a type of lemur with acrobatic leaping skills. A lemur is a monkey-like animal with a long tail and large eyes.

An examination of the five tiny hand bones by Lemelin and the rest of the research team revealed a never-before-seen hand joint configuration on the side of the little finger. The same joint configuration is straight in all other primates, including Archaeolemur, a close extinct relative of Hadropithecus.

“Our analysis showed a mosaic of lemurid-like, monkey-like and very unique morphological traits,” Lemelin said. “Because the joint was present on both hands, it’s likely not an anomaly, but because there are no other Hadropithecus hand bones for comparison, we don’t know for certain,” Lemelin said. “It is a mystery, and further investigation is needed to explain the difference in this species.”

Lemelin and his colleagues from George Washington University, the Medical College of Georgia, and the universities of Stony Brook and Massachusetts at Amherst, also discovered that, unlike its close living relatives, Hadropithecus lacked anatomical traits linked with wrist mobility and strong finger flexion that characterize primate species that climb or cling to trees.

The hand bones also showed that Hadropithecus had very short thumbs and was a quadrupedal species, walking on all fours, much like many primates, such as baboons, do today. The discovery underscores the amazing diversity of lemurs that existed more than 2,000 years ago, when lemurs of all types ranged from pocket-sized to the size of gorillas, Lemelin noted.


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Red Ruffed Lemur Euthanized At Woodland Park Zoo

red ruffed lemurA 20-year-old red ruffed lemur has been euthanized at Woodland Park Zoo following an illness due to kidney failure.

Tromi arrived at the zoo in 1999 from the Duke University Primate Center. He lived in Woodland Park's tropical rain forest and was euthanized on Tuesday.

Red ruffed lemurs can live 15 to 20 years in the wild and up to 19 years in zoos. Dr. Kelly Helmick, Woodland Park's interim director of animal health, says the post-mortem exam confirmed conditions of a geriatric lemur, including a mottled liver, small dark kidneys and a thickened heart.

Helmick says the quality of the lemur's life was compromised, leading to the decision to euthanize Tromi. There are now five lemurs remaining at Woodland Park, including three offspring of the deceased male


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Monkey Social Study Gives Clues About Autism

Monkeys have social lives, too, and watching how their brains process social cues is helping scientists better understand human social behavior and autism.

Little is known about how the human brain evaluates social information and uses it to manage behavior, notes a team of researchers at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Even less is known about what goes wrong with this process in people with autism, a social/learning disorder that affects more than one million Americans.

"Our prior studies described how social attention of rhesus monkeys is similar to humans -- motivated by status and sex, and sensitive to the attentive states of other individuals," Michael Platt, an associate professor of neurology at Duke, said in a prepared statement.

In this new study, he and his colleagues found "that the parietal cortex, which plays a critical role in guiding attention, becomes active according to the social value of images seen and ultimately enables the behavior of the animal."

In this and previous studies, the monkeys were given juice rewards to look at different images. They would forego a reward of juice to see positive images: the hindquarters of a female, for example, or the face of a dominant monkey. But they had to be "paid" more juice to view negative images: a lower-ranking monkey or a simple gray square.

"This tells us that the monkeys chose to look at images that carried valuable social information for guiding behavior. At the same time, we monitored the activity of the neurons and noticed that the firing pattern matched the behaviors we saw," Platt said.

The firing rate of neurons in the parietal cortex increased as the monkeys viewed more positive images or received more juice.

"We interpret these results to mean that the activity of the neurons provided us with information about the value of choosing one image over another -- regardless if the reward is an expected social reward or juice," Platt said.

However, the neurons in the parietal cortex did not fire when the monkeys were shown the images but didn't have to make a choice about which image to view.

"To decide between apples and oranges or between looking at an attractive female or getting a drink, the brain must evaluate these objects in a way that permits direct comparison," Platt said. "Our research found that by the time value signals have reached the parietal cortex, they are already translated in a way that enables comparison and decision-making."

This research, published in the journalCurrent Biology, improves understanding of how a normal brain reacts in social situations and guides behavior. The research also provides possible insights into autism. People with the disorder have social behavior disabilities and often have trouble looking at other people.

"Monkeys are motivated to look at some individuals and not at others. We demonstrated that this social motivation to look at others is mediated by neurons in the parietal cortex. It's possible that deficiencies in the way 'social' areas of the brain communicate with 'attention' areas of the brain may be corrupted in autism," Platt said.


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Kashata The Gorilla Leaves Atlanta To Find Mate In Florida

kashata gorillaSay goodbye to Kashata, 14. She's going where the boys are.

The western lowland gorilla is leaving Zoo Atlanta today for Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, where officials have plans for her to mate.

For Kashata, this is the trip of a lifetime. She's lived at Zoo Atlanta since her birth April 10, 1993.

She's heading to Orlando, where she'll join a family headed by male gorilla Geno. The facility has a separate group of bachelors — males with no mates.

"We are enthusiastically welcoming Kashata to our family group," said Andrea Finger, a spokesperson for the Florida zoo.

Kashata, who's never given birth, is moving to Florida as part of the species survival plan administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The organization, which serves as a standards agency for more than 200 zoos and aquariums across North America, also oversees breeding programs for various species, including Gorilla gorilla gorilla, the western lowland gorilla.

The species is in trouble in the wild. Last year, an international list of imperiled animals classified the western lowland gorilla as critically endangered.

There are 362 western lowland gorillas living in AZA institutions — eight at the Disney park in Florida. Kashata's departure leaves 22 gorillas at Zoo Atlanta.

In Swahili, "kashata" is a snack, something between cookie and candy.


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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chimp Haven Fighting Order To Return Chimps To Texas Facility

chimpSounds of nature echo in the woods of southwest Caddo, where more than 140 chimpanzees revel but some soon may roil in controversy.

On the other side of a protective fence Wednesday, actors and crew members in the Jack Black movie "The Year One" used the woods not far from Keithville to film as the Chimp Haven board decided to fight a Texas judge's order to cast six of the chimps from their garden and back into a sanctuary in Bexar County, Texas.

"We will fight for the welfare of the chimpanzees that were rescued from a Texas facility in 2006," Dr. Linda Brent, Chimp Haven president and director, said Wednesday. "Last Friday, we filed a motion for a new trial in the case in which Primarily Primates sued Chimp Haven for the return of these chimpanzees."

When asked by the Texas attorney general's office to care for the chimps, she said, Chimp Haven agreed to provide space for the animals.

"It's with the same concern for the chimpanzees' welfare that we have decided to fight the court's decision to return the chimpanzees to the facility where they endured such difficulties."

The chimps, known as the "Keithville Krewe," are Sarah, 47, Sheba, 26, Keeli, 10, Ivy, 11, Harper, 8, and Emma, 7.

"The Keithville Krewe is flourishing and happy," Brent added Wednesday. "Forcing them to leave their home at Chimp Haven is counter to their best interests and their welfare.

"It's been difficult for them because all three of the adult males that were in this original group of nine passed away, two at Primarily primates and just recently Darrell," she said. Darrell, one of the adult males, died Jan. 4 of reasons still being investigated.

The group has met and befriended other chimps and has grown acclimated to the area and the weather, Brent said.

"Chimp Haven has stepped forward to help these chimps in need, and we will not turn our back on them now. Our only goal has been to ensure the best future for the chimpanzees."

The chimpanzees were brought to Chimp Haven in November 2006 after Primarily Primates, a San Antonio facility, was seized by the Texas attorney general's office on allegations of mismanagement of charitable funds and animals living in substandard conditions.

First there were nine chimps, but two of the adult males died before coming to Chimp Haven. Then Darrell died.

Chimp Haven had requested that Primarily Primates agree to an independent third-party assessment of what would be in the best interest of the chimps, Brent said. But Primarily Primates would not agree, she said.

Priscilla Feral, president of Connecticut-based Friends of Animals, which merged with Primarily Primates and now operates the Texas facility, explained why.

"We have a chimpanzee expert on site — our full-time veterinarian, Dr. Valerie Kirk," she said. "Dr. Kirk wants the chimpanzees returned to Primarily Primates. Who is the mystery person offered by Chimp Haven who should interfere at this stage? Chimp Haven is wasting the court's time and money on this."

Brent disagrees, citing the chimps' state of mind, especially after the deaths of adults who were part of an original group of nine chimps sent to Primarily Primates from a research project in Ohio.

The chimps, Brent said, "are doing so well here physically and socially and are in a group where the youngsters have adult role models and the older females have companions. It would surely be detrimental to them to be moved again after all they have endured."

In April, the Texas attorney general's office settled the case against Primarily Primates, which later sued Chimp Haven for return of the chimps, claiming the transfer of the primates was temporary. In February, Texas 285th District Judge Michael Peden granted Primarily Primates' motion for a summary judgment to send the six chimpanzees back to San Antonio.

The Texas sanctuary folks are eager to see their charges return home. "It is in the best interest of the chimpanzees to return them to Primarily Primates," Feral said.

"These six chimpanzees came to Primarily Primates out of research. Primarily Primates made a commitment to look after them and to keep them in a permanent sanctuary that will be a model for refuges around the world. We're offering a permanent, private, respectful refuge which has a full-time veterinarian, an expert in chimpanzee care."

Chimp Haven, also known as The National Chimpanzee Sanctuary, is 25 miles southwest of Shreveport in Eddie D. Jones Nature Park. It welcomed its first residents in April 2005 and is home to 141 retired chimpanzees.

Primarily Primates, founded in 1978, acknowledges on its Web site that it restructured its board in 2007 under an agreement with the Texas attorney general's office and that a probate judge placed the sanctuary under control of a receiver from October 2006 through April.

But, Feral said, "Chimp Haven works through a contract with federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, which use chimpanzees in testing.

"Chimp Haven stores apes who are expensive to keep in the lab. The government has the public donate to Chimp Haven, which allows the government to have more money for ape research. Thus, how important is it to support private sanctuaries with no connection at all to public display or research?"

Feral said the Texas court has ordered that Chimp Haven pay Primarily Primates' attorneys' fees through every stage of appeal.

"Instead of continuing to litigate, Chimp Haven should let these chimpanzees get on with their lives and be returned to their permanent refuge as soon as possible."

Brent would not say how far she and her board are prepared to go in their appeals.

"Where it goes from here is hard to say. At this point, we just hope courts and the judges at the district court level do what's right for the chimps and consider their welfare."


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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Park Manager Arrested Over Congo Gorilla Deaths

congo gorillasA senior manager at a world heritage African wildlife park was arrested Tuesday as an investigation into the killing of 10 rare mountain gorillas gathered pace, a government minister said.

Honore Mashagiro, a member of the Congolese nature conservation institute, was arrested in Goma, Nord-Kivu, Environment Minister Felicite Kalume told AFP.

He is accused of "orchestrating" the killing of the animals, in the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2007. Another two of them are missing.

Another institute member, who requested anonymity, said six foresters would also be questioned over the coming days on suspicion of having trapped and killed the animals in the site on Mashagiro's orders.

Local environment experts told AFP that "profound internal disagreements" within the conservation institute could lie behind the massacre.

"Some sector heads are involved in the trafficking of makala," said one.

Makala is a coal-like mineral illegally extracted from the forests these professional bodies are meant to protect.

The same source suggested that the gorillas could have been killed to create a diversion from this illicit trade -- or even to throw suspicion heat on rival park workers.

Alexandre Wathaut, the head of the institute, told AFP that the "fight against makala trafficking" from within the park had been "seriously stepped up" since late-2007.

He also acknowledged the existence of internal rivalries within the park's management.

The latest development is a departure from previous killings of the gorillas, when suspicion has fallen on local rebel forces.

Fierce fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between government troops and forces loyal to a renegade ex-general has in the past been blamed for the slaughter of the rare animals.

A charity complained last year that fighting there between the leader of Tutsi forces, Laurent Nkunda and government troops meant rangers were having difficulty accessing the gorillas in the park.

The UNESCO-protected site is home to more than half of the last 700 mountain gorillas not in captivity.

Nkunda's men were accused by campaigners of eating two silverbacks in January 2007, but the motives for the other eight killings remain unclear.

Their bodies were found intact, sometimes with their young still alive and clinging to their bodies.


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Rwanda Launches Reforestation Project To Protect Chimps, Drive Ecotourism

rwanda chimpConservationists in Rwanda have launched an ambitious reforestation project that aims to create a forest corridor to link an isolated group of chimpanzees to larger areas of habitat in Nyungwe National Park. The initiative, called the Rwandan National Conservation Park, is backed by the Rwandan government, the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, and Earthpark, a group seeking to build an indoor rainforest in the U.S. Midwest.

"This is an ambitious plan, but the Gishwati chimpanzees are on the brink of extinction. Every newly planted tree increases their chance of survival by providing additional food, shelter and security from people," said Dr. Benjamin Beck, director of conservation at Great Ape Trust. "If we direct the reforestation southward, there is the additional advantage of bringing them closer to a larger, more secure population in the Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda and the Kibira National Park in Rwanda, with a combined total of about 800 chimpanzees. Once they make contact, the Gishwati chimpanzees will enjoy a wider pool of prospective mates, and thus can avoid inbreeding."

Backers of the Rwanda National Conservation Park say the project will help restore biodiversity and ecosystem services including improving water quality, reducing soil erosion, flooding, and landslides and increasing carbon sequestration. The initiative is expected to generate income for Rwandans through ecotourism, investment opportunity and local employment.

"We must of course find ways to adequately and sustainably compensate people whose agricultural productivity is decreased by reforestation," said Beck. "One answer will be a new ecotourism destination resulting in employment opportunities as trackers and forest managers."

Rwanda has been nearly completed stripped of its natural forest cover by decades of subsistence agriculture and cutting of fuelwood, but since the end of the 1994 genocide the country has embarked on a push to promote better land practices, including conservation and reforestation, as well as ecotourism. In the past two years, Rwanda has seen hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign investment for the development of hotels and tourist facilities.

Gishwati is seen as having great potential for nature-oriented tourism. Once the second-largest indigenous forest in Rwanda, Gishwati originally covered 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) in the early 1900s but by 1994 the forest has been reduced to 600 hectares (1,500 acres). Recent reforestation efforts have increased GishwatiĆ¢€™s forest to 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres). While the reserve is presently home to only 15 chimps, conservationists hope the population will increase as the forest area expands and is linked to the larger Nyungwe National Park.


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Monday, March 17, 2008

A Moment Of Rejected Baby Gorilla Zen

gorilla baby
rejected gorilla baby
gorilla baby
Wrapped snugly up in a blanket, baby gorilla Tia is being lovingly reared by zookeepers after her mother rejected her.

The six-week-old is now getting the care she needs after being fed powdered milk - and wears nappies.

Phil Ridges, of the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Hythe, Kent, said: "She was dehydrated and craved some love. We've spent 24 hours a day with her and she's putting on weight."



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Heart Disease Decimating Zoo Gorillas

gorillas heart diseaseU.S. researchers are trying to understand why so many gorillas in North American zoos are dying of heart disease.

The most recent victim was Sunshine, a 34-year-old western lowland gorilla, who died Tuesday in the Detroit Zoo after suffering from heart disease for several years.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in captive gorillas, the zoo said in a release. More than 40 percent of adult gorilla deaths are due to heart disease, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Scientists said they don't know why gorillas contract the disease at such a high rate. Possibilities include diet, disease, old age or some other unknown cause.

Veterinarian Suzan Murray said heart disease in gorillas is different from heart disease in humans. Gorillas develop a hardening of the heart muscle, called fibrosing cardiomyopathy, that has few symptoms, the newspaper said.


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Friday, March 14, 2008

Pet Monkey Quarantined After Biting Child

An unusual case has left the New Albany-Floyd County Animal Shelter hunting for answers -- and they've contacted WAVE 3 for help. Shelter officials say they got a call from the Floyd County Health Department after a child visited a home and was bitten by the owner's pet Capuchin monkey. It's the first case of it's kind for both departments, and finding answers is taking time. WAVE 3's Shayla Reaves investigates.

It's not much bigger than a pet cat, but one small monkey is in the middle of a major problem at the New Albany- Floyd County Animal Shelter.

"We've been contacted by the health department in Floyd County that there has been a child injured by a Capuchin monkey," New Albany-Floyd County Animal Shelter Director David Hall told WAVE 3.

The Capuchin monkey is legal to have as a pet in Indiana. For the shelter, it's not about whether or not to allow exotic animals as pets, but about getting access to information about their health with limited costs to taxpayers.

"Here's New Albany is in a budget crunch and we've spent a total of 4 to 6 hours on this case yesterday and we're spending time again today on the case," Hall said.

Still, there are no answers. For now, the monkey is quarantined at the owner's home while the health department investigates. Because the department usually deals with humans, it turned to the animal shelter for help. Finding out if the monkey's shots are up to date is proving to be very difficult, because there's nothing in the law specific to monkeys.

"Veterinarians have told us it's not the rabies I'd be worried about," said Hall. "It's the other diseases that these animals may be carrying that I'd be worried about."

Louisville Zoo Curator Steve Wing says "a lot of the tests and vaccinations that have been developed for dogs and cats -- we don't have that research on exotic animals."

The Louisville Zoo has no Capuchin monkeys, and it's illegal in Kentucky to have monkeys as pets.

Wing says it's "like having a 2-year-old in your house at all times, and they're very unpredictable. They react to different situations differently than people do so you don't ever know exactly what they're ever going to do."

Right now, Indiana requires permits for some wild animals, but there are no statewide restrictions for monkeys. The Humane Society is supporting legislation to change that and stop people from getting monkeys as pets in the future.


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Chimps Perceived By Public Not To Be Endangered Because Of Prevalence On TV

jane and chimpMovie producers and advertisers have long relied on chimpanzees comically dressed as humans to entertain their audience, but scientists say the practice is bad for chimps not only as individuals but also as a species threatened with extinction.

Primatologists reported Thursday in the journal Science that only 66 percent of visitors to Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago thought chimps were endangered. Many people surveyed said they assumed that because the apes are so widely used in the entertainment and advertising industry, wild chimps must be plentiful and thriving.

"We now have evidence that this inaccurate and inappropriate portrayal of chimpanzees may negatively influence the way the public perceives this endangered species, which is in need of serious conservation efforts," said Lincoln Park Zoo's Steve Ross.

In fact, chimpanzees are officially an endangered species whose prospects in the wild are increasingly bleak. The number of wild chimps in Africa is thought to have shrunk from perhaps 2 million across the continent in 1900 to an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 and falling today. Only four nations now have significant chimp populations.

Ross, supervisor of behavioral and cognitive research at the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, is one of two lead authors of the Science article, along with Kirsten Lukas, a former Lincoln Park primate curator now at the Cleveland zoo. Among the other five authors are Elizabeth Lonsdorf, director of the Fisher Center, and pioneering wild chimp researcher Jane Goodall.

The paper, titled "Inappropriate Use and Portrayal of Chimpanzees," was based on a survey done at Lincoln Park's ape house in 2005. Nearly 1,000 visitors agreed to answer a lengthy series of questions about their use of the ape house and their overall knowledge of the apes.

For the 57th and final question in the survey, the researcher showed the visitors glossy color photographs of a gorilla, an orangutan and a chimpanzee, and asked which are endangered in the wild. All three are endangered.

Ninety-six percent answered correctly on gorillas and 91 percent on orangutans -- far higher than the 66 percent who labeled chimps as endangered.

Among those who thought chimps are not in danger, the most common reason was that "chimpanzees were commonly seen on television, advertisements, and movies and, therefore, must not be in jeopardy," the paper said.

The study was duplicated at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa in Des Moines, with almost identical results.

Both Ross and Lukas said awareness of chimps' status likely would be even less among the general population than in a zoo setting.

The paper singles out two ads for criticism, including a television commercial for CareerBuilder.com that portrays chimpanzees "as misbehaving business executives." The online job search service is partially owned by Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune.

The service said the 2007 ad is no longer used, having cycled out with the introduction of a new ad campaign.

"CareerBuilder.com's spots featuring chimpanzees at the office are among the most popular and beloved Super Bowl commercials of all time and have received numerous accolades," said a company spokeswoman.

The ad did attract criticism from animal rights groups, she said, and the company assured them it worked with "trainers who are among the best in their industry." An American Humane Association representative observed the filming, she said.

'Not funny to us'

Lisa New, vice chairwoman of North American zoos' chimpanzee species survival program and head of Knoxville Zoo's animal collections, hailed the study, saying it should help publicize the dark side of using chimps in the entertainment industry.

Because adult chimps are much too strong and temperamental to use as actors, New said, the chimps seen in ads and films are youngsters taken from mothers and natural family units to be raised and trained by humans.

"As entertainers, they are washed up by age 5, 6, or 7, and what happens to them then?" New said. "They have another 50 or 60 years of life ahead of them. ... They could get sold to roadside zoos, as private pets or whatever.

"To see them in that situation, taken from their mothers and not being kept in an appropriate setting, that is not funny to us."


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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Escaped Chimpanzee Shot Dead In Bastrop

An adult chimpanzee was shot and killed after he escaped from an enclosure at the Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research in Bastrop Wednesday morning, University of Texas police said today.

It was the second time in less than a year that a chimpanzee escaped from the campus, Assistant Police Chief Thomas Engells said. In November, a chimp named Jake escaped from the center, but he was tranquilized and returned to the center, which houses 2,000 primates.

Engells said that there has not been a trend “The only thing they have in common is that they both are chimpanzees,” Engells said.

Wednesday, a 18-year-old chimp named Tony , escaped at around 8:25 a.m., Engells said. Dr. Christian Abee, director of the center, said a team that specializes in safe animal capture techniques followed the chimpanzee across the center’s campus onto adjacent ranch land. Officials tried to capture the animal for 45 minutes and used “at least one tranquilizer dart” before a 5-year-veteran of the police department fatally shot the animal, Engells said.

Standard operating procedures for capturing escaped animals was followed in the chimpanzee’s escape, Abee said. “A chimpanzee escape is an extraordinarily rare event in most circumstances,” he added. “We are taking statements to determine what happened.”

He said that though Jake and Tony’s escapes “occurred fairly close together, they are quite different. So we have to look at them both very carefully to determine what happened and whether there were ways to prevent them.”

The police department will conduct a use of force review and investigation into the incident, which is standard procedure when an officer discharges his weapon. The officer, whose name was not released, was first commissioned as a University of Texas police officer in June 2002.

Counselors will be available at the center today and tomorrow to provide counseling for the center’s 120 employees. “A tragic event of this type takes its toll on our caregivers,” Abee said.


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Reward Offered In Missing Monkey Island Case

stolen monkeyThe owner of the Monkey Island Sanctuary is offering a $3,000 reward for anyone who can help track down his stolen monkeys.

Catherine Montes is accused of taking two monkeys from their cages last October.

Joseph Shinkle, who identified himself as the president of Monkey Island and Zoological Sanctuary, testified in court last week that he gave Montes permission to take the monkeys and he didn't give her any specific time to come and get them.

Dana Savorelli, the man who claimed to own the monkeys, testified that he didn't make that arrangement. Savorelli, owner of Monkey Island, said he just wants the monkeys back and he hopes that the reward will help locate them.

Anyone who knows where the moneys are is asked to call the Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.


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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Detroit Zoo's Beloved Silverback Gorilla Dies

The Detroit Zoo family is mourning the loss of Sunshine, a 34-year-old male silverback gorilla, who died on Tuesday.

“Sunshine was especially impressive because of his size. He was loved by Detroit Zoo staff, docents and visitors, and we all feel a tremendous sense of loss,” said Scott Carter, Director of Conservation and Animal Welfare.

The 550-pound western lowland gorilla was being treated for a flu-like illness for the past few weeks and his condition rapidly worsened on Tuesday. A necropsy is scheduled to learn more about the cause of death.

Sunshine had been treated for heart disease for the past few years and received his most recent cardiac workup in December. Cardiovascular disease, similar to that in humans, is the leading cause of death in captive gorillas. Western lowland gorillas can live into their 30s in the wild and into their 40s in captivity.

Sunshine, who has called the Detroit Zoo home since 1996, was on loan from the Columbus Zoo and was scheduled to return to Columbus with his companion, Toni, a 36-year-old female western lowland gorilla. Toni is still scheduled to go to Columbus.

The Detroit Zoo has a bachelor group of three young male gorillas and expects to receive a breeding group of gorillas in the next year or two. In addition to the gorillas, the Zoo’s Great Apes of Harambee habitat houses 10 chimpanzees, two mandrills and a Diana monkey.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution in Sunshine’s memory to fund either the national research effort on captive gorilla cardiac disease or care of the Detroit Zoo’s Great Apes of Harambee can send donations to: Detroit Zoological Society, 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak, MI 48067


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Monkey Briefly Escapes From Enclosure At Omaha Zoo

A monkey got loose Tuesday inside the Lied Jungle at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, leading zookeepers on a brief chase before jumping back onto the island.

Workers closed the building during the incident, and the monkey, a Francois' langur, never got outside, said Danny Morris, the zoo's assistant director.

He said no one was in danger.

"We have a series of little islands inside the jungle. When we put new monkeys out there, normally they stay on all the time," Morris said. "Sometimes when you put a new group out, you'll get one who will figure out how to jump out."

Morris said the escaped monkey, which weighs about 10 pounds, and the two other Francois' langurs on the island were placed inside a holding area after the escapee returned to the island. The three monkeys probably will be brought back out this morning, Morris said.

When the jungle first opened in 1992, Morris said, monkeys figured out how to climb off the islands by grasping the ceiling beams. Zoo workers put flashing on the beams to block those routes, he said.

"It was kind of like a huge game to begin with," he said.


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Euthanized Spokane Monkey Did Not Have Rabies

Tests on a euthanized monkey that had bitten three people after escaping from his owner's home show the small macaque did not have rabies.

The Spokane Regional Health District said today that the tests were performed on the head of Chico at the Washington State Public Health Laboratories in Shoreline.

The health district says that means the three people bitten by the monkey will not have to undergo a preventive series of rabies vaccinations.


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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monkeys Found To Combine Calls Into Sentence-Like Structures

putty nose monkeyResearchers have found that monkeys combine calls to make them meaningful in the same way that humans do.

It is hoped the St Andrews University study will provide fresh insights into the evolution of human language.

The researchers recorded the alarm calls of putty-nosed monkeys in Nigeria and noticed them combining noises to apparently convey different meanings.

It had been thought monkeys could only create new sounds to communicate rather than combining existing noises.

Scientists had thought that combining calls, as a human trait, only came about because the repertoire of noises had become so large.

However, the putty-nosed monkeys only have a small number of sounds, according to scientists.

Dr Klaus ZuberbĆ¼hler, of the university's school of psychology, said: "Our research has revealed some interesting parallels in the vocal behaviour of forest monkeys and this crucial feature of human language.

"At some point, according to the theory, it became more economical for humans to combine existing elements of communication, rather than adding new ones to a large repertoire.

"This is based on the notion that signals would be combined only once the number of them had grown sufficiently.

"Our research shows that these assumptions may not be correct."

In 2006, researchers from St Andrews found that monkeys produced different series of alarm calls in order to distinguish which predator they are responding to.

The latest research provides evidence that the various calls may contain at least three types of information - the event witnessed, the caller's identity, and whether he intends to travel, all of which were recognised by other monkeys.


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Baby Titi Monkey Stolen From Argentine Zoo

titi monkey stolenThieves stole a baby monkey from a packed Argentine zoo by creating a distraction, grabbing the animal and fleeing over a fence, officials said.

The 6-inch, three-month-old titi monkey was stolen Sunday from the La Plata zoo, which was filled with 4,000 visitors at the time. Authorities say they are searching for two young men and asking visitors to come forward with any pictures they may have taken at the time of the theft at the zoo southeast of Buenos Aires.

Titi monkeys are sometimes traded illegally as pets.

Zoo director Daniel Arregui said the two suspects distracted guards by breaking the padlock on the pen of four racoon-like animals, then cut through the wire enclosure holding the monkey. After snatching the monkey, they apparently jumped over a fence into a nearby park, Arregui told government news agency Telam.

Zoo guide Nicolas Gutierrez said the two suspects were wearing soccer jerseys. The theft occurred while 4,000 visitors were in the zoo and caused "quite a stir," he said.

The baby was one of nearly 20 titi monkeys of the Callicebus genus in the zoo, Gutierrez said. The monkeys are native to South America and can be found from Colombia to Brazil, and parts of Peru and Paraguay.


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Monday, March 10, 2008

Aging Gorilla Survives Cancer Surgery, May Receive Chemotherapy

gorilla cancerAn aging gorilla that lives at Salt Lake City's Hogle Zoo underwent surgery on Thursday to remove cancerous tumors, in an attempt to save the animal's life.

Muke (pronounced moo-key), a 43-year-old gorilla at the zoo had the operation to remove cancerous polyps in its reproductive tract. Zoo officials had two human surgeons from Salt Lake area hospitals perform the operation.

The surgeons successfully performed the surgery early Thursday afternoon and removed all of the cancerous tumors they could find. However, caretakers remain concerned as to whether the cancer might still spread throughout the animal's body.

"They removed her uterus and her ovaries... they basically did a hysterectomy," said zoo spokesperson Holly Braithwaite.

Doctors administered antibiotics and pain medications for the gorilla after the operation and closed the ape exhibit for the day to allow her to recover as much as possible. (Video: Doctor explains Mooki's condition)

Prior to Thursday's surgery, zoo officials said negative results could force them to euthanize Muke. However, the African-born gorilla made it through and may now receive chemotherapy treatment.

Muke was born in Africa in 1965 and moved to Hogle Zoo from the St. Louis Zoo in 1996. She has been paired with a male silverback, Tino, for most of her time in Utah. Zoo officials say the two never mated, but have bonded.

Gorillas that develop a close relationship often exhibit signs of concern when their mate becomes sick or disappears. Braithwaite said Tino has clearly been worried about Muke, pacing in his habitat and looking through the glass where he last saw her.

Zoo officials say that human surgeons were selected to perform the surgery on Thursday because the reproductive tract in apes resembles that found in humans.

It was not immediately known Thursday whether Muke would receive chemotherapy treatment. Officials say that decision depends on how the gorilla responds to the surgery.

At 43-years-old, Muke is older than the average gorilla. If translated to human years, the animal is approximately 70-80 years old.


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Rebels Threaten Execution for Gorilla Rangers

congo gorillaCongolese rebels in control of eastern Congo and Virunga National Park have said they will execute any wildlife rangers attempting to enter the area, home to nearly half the world’s endangered mountain gorillas.

Land mines have been placed on routes leading into the region, despite a recent signed peace agreement between the government and the rebels.

Diddy Mwanaki, a ranger for the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), said: “They have to go. They are very aggressive against the rangers of ICCN, and have threatened to execute any of us who return to the gorilla sector.”

Oddly enough, the rebels are helping fund their military operations by running a gorilla tourism business. Mwanaki wrote: “At the moment, we reckon they are taking about two groups per week, which generates money for their militias. Unfortunately, they are not - as far as we can tell - respecting the basic regulations to ensure that the gorillas are kept safe from disease and disturbance.”

Rangers had been hopeful they could return to the Gorilla sector of the Virunga National Park after a peace agreement was signed in January. Laurent Nkunda, the leader of rebel groups in the park, had even said he wanted the rangers to return.

Rob Muir, a researcher with the Frankfurt Zoological Society who worked in the area, said: “The ICCN rangers had initially planned to spend seven days at Bukima before heading out to Jomba. However, the night before the operation was due to commerce, we received a call from Monuc (UN peacekeeping force) informing us that the road to Bukima had been mined. The only option therefore was to try and reach Jomba, right in the heart of rebel territory.”

Muir added that a group had gone into the park, but were stopped by a hostile party of rebels. He said: “Director Norbert Mushenzi was informed that his ICCN delegation had only been let in out of respect for Monuc, and that it would be the first and last time they would be given access. They added that if it was not for the presence of Monuc, the delegation would have been executed.”


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Memorial Service Remembers 150 Killed Monkeys

monkeys rememberedA group of animal rights activists from the Alliance for Animals Primate Freedom Project commemorated the 10th anniversary of the deaths of 150 monkeys at Henry Vilas Zoo Saturday.

The monkeys lived in the zoo’s monkey house but functioned as research animals for the UW-Madison’s Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.

The monkeys died in 1998 after a whistle-blower revealed UW researchers were subjecting them to suffering in their experiments, often selling them to labs around the country afterward. The National Institutes of Health responded by terminating funding for the monkeys’ care and for related research programs and then-dean Virginia Henshaw told reporters the university would need to relocate the monkeys immediately.

A refuge in San Antonio offered to donate $30,000 for transportation and care of the monkeys, but the university deemed the location inadequate and sent the monkeys to Tulane University.

Instead of allowing the monkeys to remain in their family groups, Tulane researchers separated the monkeys into quarantine, a form of solitary confinement. The researchers allegedly subjected the animals to scientific testing, which resulted in their deaths.

According to the Alliance for Animals, on three seperate occasions the university promised in writing to spare the monkeys from harmful experiments.

Primate Freedom Project Leader Rick Bogle said he believes the National Institutes of Health worked with the university to sell the animals, thereby avoiding responsibility for the deaths.

Bogle’s wife Lynn Pauley said the memorial helped remember the monkeys’ deaths and the animal rights cause.

“I think it’s really important that we stand here, as bearing witness, even if no one else were here,” Pauley said.

WNPRC director Dr. Joseph Kemnitz said in a statement the former colony benefited researchers at the time, but the university decided to withdraw the program because of funding decreases, building problems and inbreeding concerns. He called the university’s comments at the time of the transfer “ill-advised.”

The WNPRC receives full accreditation from the American Association for the Accreditation of Animal Care International, and regular review from several other federal and state-level agencies.


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Spokane Monkey That Bit Three People To Be Euthanized

monkey euthanizedA macaque monkey once blamed for hurling feces at federal agents is going to be euthanized and tested for rabies.

The animal, named Chico, harassed the federal agents when they came to its owner's home in 2005 to investigate a Spokane-based Internet operation selling fake diplomas. Chico got into trouble again on Feb. 28, when it escaped and bit three people. Since then it's been held at an animal shelter.

Dr. Larry Jecha, acting head of the Spokane Regional Health District, signed Chico's death warrant Sunday afternoon. Health officials said that because the monkey bit three people, it has to be tested for rabies, and there's no way to test for rabies without killing it.


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Monday, March 03, 2008

Oldest Primate Fossil in North America Discovered

Teilhardina magnolianaHe was the Albert Einstein of his time -- aside from the fact that this long-extinct critter weighed about an ounce (28 grams), measured three inches long and munched on bugs and berries.

A U.S. scientist has unearthed the remains of the earliest-known primate to live in North America. In doing so, he figured out the path these ancient representatives of the mammalian group that includes lemurs, monkeys, apes and people must have taken to reach this part of the world.

Based on a group of teeth from a teeny primate unearthed in Mississippi dating to 55.8 million years ago, paleontologist Christopher Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh said the species likely scampered over a now-vanished land bridge connecting Siberia to Alaska.
Teilhardina magnolianaThe tiny immigrant was called Teilhardina magnoliana, Beard said in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"For his time, he would have been about the smartest animal around. But that doesn't mean he was thinking deep thoughts," Beard said in a telephone interview.

"Primates have nails on their digits instead of claws. Primates have eyes that face forward and give us stereoscopic vision, instead of having eyes on the side of our heads like a dog or a horse. Primates almost always have relatively larger brains than other mammals," Beard said.

Teilhardina would have fit snugly into the palm of Einstein's hands, but its big thoughts were perhaps more practical than theoretical physics.

This arboreal creature was probably most concerned about its next meal of bugs, berries and fruit and staying away from lizards or birds of prey, Beard said, and one other basic instinct -- "Where are the girls?"

"It's a small, primitive primate. In some ways, it would have looked more like a teeny, tiny monkey than it would have looked like a small lemur," Beard said, noting that it lived more than 10 million years before the first primitive monkeys.

It was not ancestral to New World monkeys, but might have been in the lineage leading to a type of primitive primate known as Tarsiers that still lives in southeast Asia, he said.

Fossils of closely related species of Teilhardina have been found in China, Belgium, France and Wyoming. The new species predates the Wyoming one, Beard said, and came from a time period when a route from Asia was the likely path into North America.

There has been some debate within scientific circles about how the most primitive primates first entered North America, with some feeling they crossed from Siberia and others thinking it was overland from Europe by way of Greenland at a time when the continents were aligned differently.

The fossil teeth were dug up near Meridian, Mississippi, close to the former coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. They are older than any primate fossils from Europe, he said, suggesting that rather than migrating from Europe to North America, this primate might have ventured the other way around.

This primate lived 10 million years after the dinosaurs and so many other species were obliterated by a big hunk of space rock, and mammals were exerting their dominance on land.

The Bering land bridge was the route of many migrations over the eons, including dinosaurs. Many scientists believe the first modern humans entered North America over that very same route sometime between perhaps 30,000 to 12,000 years ago.

The world was in the middle of a drastic warming period at the time that was witness to a dramatic radiation of mammal species. In this ancient ice-free world, Alaska must have been a tropical paradise, Beard said.


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