Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Moment Of Kung Fu Monkey Zen...

king fu
kung fu
kung fu monkey

The Sun (questionably) reports that this trainer was turned on by his troop of martial arts monkeys.

Full story(?) here.

Most Elusive Gorilla Caught on Video

cross river gorillaThe world's rarest and most camera shy great ape has come out of hiding on a forested mountain in Cameroon, where scientists have captured video and photos of the primate.

The minutes-worth of footage marks the first professional video of the animal, revealing two such Cross River gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli) snacking on figs about 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 meters) above the forest floor. While the video may not be crystal clear, scientists are ecstatic to capture even blurry footage of these hairy actors.

"These gorillas are extremely wary of humans and are very difficult to photograph or film," said Roger Fotso, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Cameroon Program. "Eventually, we identified and staked out some of the gorillas' favorite fig trees, which is where we finally achieved our goal."

The only previous footage of the Cross River gorilla (one of two subspecies of western gorilla) was taken from a long distance with a shaky, hand-held camera in 2005.

See the footage here.
Full story here.

N.C. Zoo Loses Second Gorilla To Cancer This Week

katie the gorillaFor the second time in as many days, a gorilla undergoing treatment for cancer was euthanized after zoo veterinarians said her health had dramatically deteriorated.

Katie, a 36-year-old female gorilla, was euthanized shortly before noon Wednesday by veterinarians at the zoo's Hanes Veterinary Medical center. Katie had been at the North Carolina Zoo since July 1989 after being transferred from the San Diego Zoo.

On Tuesday, zoo vets decided to euthanize Donna, a 42-year-old female gorilla, after more than two-and-a-half years of cancer treatment.

Katie's condition deteriorated rapidly on Tuesday," said chief veterinarian Dr. Mike Loomis. "She had stopped eating and would not respond to keepers."

Katie was diagnosed with non-operable cancer in her reproductive tract last May. Vets had been trying to use radiation therapy to shrink the tumor, but found that the tumor had grown.

Full story here.

Meat May Be The Reason Humans Outlive Apes

meatGenetic changes that apparently allow humans to live longer than any other primate may be rooted in a more carnivorous diet.

These changes may also promote brain development and make us less vulnerable to diseases of aging, such as cancer, heart disease and dementia.

Chimpanzees and great apes are genetically similar to humans, yet they rarely live for more than 50 years. Although the average human lifespan has doubled in the last 200 years — due largely to decreased infant mortality related to advances in diet, environment and medicine — even without these improvements, people living in high mortality hunter-forager lifestyles still have twice the life expectancy at birth as wild chimpanzees do.

These key differences in lifespan may be due to genes that humans evolved to adjust better to meat-rich diets, biologist Caleb Finch at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles suggested.

The oldest known stone tools manufactured by the ancestors of modern humans, which date back some 2.6 million years, apparently helped butcher animal bones. As our forerunners evolved, they became better at capturing and digesting meat, a valuable, high-energy food, by increasing brain and body size and reducing gut size.

Over time, eating red meat, particularly raw flesh infected with parasites in the era before cooking, stimulates chronic inflammation, Finch explained. In response, humans apparently evolved unique variants in a cholesterol-transporting gene, apolipoprotein E, which regulates chronic inflammation as well as many aspects of aging in the brain and arteries.

One variant found in all modern human populations, known as ApoE3, emerged roughly 250,000 years ago, "just before the final stage of evolution of Homo sapiens in Africa," Finch explained.

Full story here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

N.C. Zoo Euthanizes Donna The Gorilla

donna gorillaDonna, a gorilla at the N.C. Zoo who had been battling cancer for 21/2 years, was euthanized Monday after a relapse. She was 42.

The effort to save Donna included a full hysterectomy performed in August 2008 by three women's health specialists from the Triangle: an oncologist at Duke University Medical Center and two doctors from the N.C. Center for Reproductive Medicine in Cary.

But cancerous tumors reappeared in Donna's abdomen and grew in recent months, said Mike Loomis, the zoo's chief veterinarian. Zoo veterinarians and staff determined Monday that the cancer was not treatable and that Donna's condition would only worsen.

Donna, a Western Lowland gorilla, was born in 1968 and came to North Carolina from a zoo in St. Paul, Minn., in 1990. According to the National Zoological Park in Washington, gorillas live to about 35 years old in the wild and up to 54 in zoos.

Full story here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Monkey Day!

Yes, it's that time of year again, December 14th, when all good primates celebrate their simian side. For more information go the Monkey Day website. Happy Monkey Day!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PETA Wants ChristmasVille To Cancel Horse-Riding Chimps

chimp balletThe animal advocate's group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals asked ChristmasVille organizers to scrap the horseback-riding chimpanzees from today's holiday festivities in downtown Rock Hill.

The show, however, went on as planned.

ChristmasVille organizers defended the decision to present “Chimpfabulous.”

“We research very carefully any vendors that we allow in city events,” city of Rock Hill spokeswoman Lyn Garris said. “It's an honorable group of people. The animals are well treated. We're comfortable that we've made a good decision.”

Garris said planners took time to interview the performers before hand, do online searches about them and background checks. Garris on Saturday didn't have figures showing what it cost to hire the group.

A PETA representative couldn't be reached Saturday.

Friday night, the group posted a message on ChristmasVille's Facebook page asking people to contact organizers about canceling the chimps. The post was later removed from ChristmasVille's page on the social networking site.

"On Saturday, December 5, organizers of the ChristmasVille festival in Rock Hill, South Carolina, plan to host a cruel event in which chimpanzees are forced to ride horses for spectators' entertainment," the post states. "Chimpanzees used in the entertainment industry are forcibly separated from their mothers while they are often still nursing infants. ... Training baby chimpanzees almost always includes physical abuse to ensure that the animals live in fear and know that the trainer is 'boss.'"

Full story here.

Titi Monkey Born At Salisbury Zoo

titi monkey bornThe Salisbury Zoological Park announces its latest addition – another Titi monkey.

The keepers knew something was happening in the animal holding building of the sloth and monkey exhibit. The parents had been very secretive and protective for a couple of days over the previous weekend.

Finally, on the morning Nov. 23, zoo staff was able to see what was causing the unusual behavior. The family group was huddled close together and upon further observation, the keeper noticed what looked like an extra tail on the male monkey. As she continued watching, she saw the tiny baby monkey clinging to its dad.

Full story here.

Monkey Sighted In San Francisco Area

The Marin Humane Society is looking into two reports that a monkey was spotted in Novato in the past week, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

At about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, a school bus driver reported seeing a monkey cross the road on Captain Nurse Circle, humane society spokeswoman Carrie Harrington said.

The bus driver's report was "very vague," and the only description was that the animal had a tail about 18 inches long, Harrington said.

The humane society then received a call at about 5 p.m. Tuesday from a woman who said her daughter had spotted a monkey while driving in the same area on Thursday, Harrington said.

The woman said that while they were driving, her 11-year-old daughter said, "Mom, look, there's a monkey over there," but the woman did not see the animal herself, Harrington said.

After seeing news reports about the bus driver's sighting, the woman asked her daughter about the incident again and the girl insisted she saw the monkey, Harrington said.

The girl described the animal as being dark brown in color and about the size of a 2-liter bottle of soda, she said.

The Marin Humane Society will have an officer patrol the area, and is asking anyone who sees the animal to call the humane society at (415) 883-4621.

Full story here.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

AIDS Linked to Ancient Tiger Monkey Attack

tiger monkey attackA tiger that lived thousands or millions of years ago may shed light on how the AIDS virus began and how it works.

Researchers have found a strand of feline DNA in the AIDS virus, leading them to believe that the virus was incubated in ancient tigers, according to HealthDay .

They believe that the tiger may have bitten a monkey, setting in motion the viral evolution that would ultimately lead to the infection of humans.

While the finding likely won't lead to any immediate breakthroughs in AIDS treatment, it provides more understanding into how the virus works.

"Unless you really understand how these viruses work, the exact step-by-step chemical process, then you can't really rationally design a new clever kind of therapy that may be effective against the virus," explained study co-author Robert Bambara, chairman of the University of Rochester's department of biochemistry and biophysics.

The study, published online in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology , could eventually be useful to scientists trying to find ways to better treat the disease in humans.

Full story here.

Rudiments Of Language Discovered In Monkeys

monkey languageCampbell’s monkeys appear to combine the same calls in different ways, using rules of grammar that turn sound into language.

Whether their rudimentary syntax echoes the speech of humanity’s evolutionary ancestors, or represents an emergence of language unrelated to our own, is unclear. Either way, they’re far more sophisticated than we thought.

“This is the first evidence we have in animal communication that they can combine, in a semantic way, different calls to create a new message,” said Alban Lemasson, a primatologist at the University of Rennes in France. “I’m not sure it has strong parallels with humans, in the way that we will find a subject and object and verb. But they have meaningful units combined into other meaningful sequences, with rules imposed on how they’re combined.”

Lemasson’s team previously described the monkeys’ use of calls with specific meanings in a paper published in November. It detailed the monkeys’ basic sound structures and their uses: “Hok” for eagle, “krak” for leopard, “krak-oo” for general disturbance, “hok-oo” and “wak-oo” for general disturbance in forest canopies. A sixth call, “boom,” was used in non-predatory contexts, such as when calling a group together for travel or arguing with neighboring groups.

Full story here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Genes Allow Humans Longer Life Than Apes

A U.S. gerontologist says genetic advantages allow us to outlive our ape ancestors, although we are more susceptible to diseases of aging.

In spite of their genetic similarity to humans, chimpanzees and great apes have maximum life spans rarely exceeding 50 years. The difference, says University of Southern California-Davis Professor Caleb Finch, is as humans evolved, their genes enabled them to better adjust to levels of infection and inflammation and to the high cholesterol levels of meat rich diets.

Finch said such evolutionary genetic advantages, caused by slight differences in DNA sequencing, also make humans uniquely susceptible to diseases of aging, such as cancer and heart disease.

In addition to differences in diets, he said humans evolved unique variants in a cholesterol transporting gene, apolipoprotein E, which also regulates inflammation and many aspects of aging in the brain and arteries.

ApoE3 is unique to humans. But the minor allele, apoE4, when expressed in humans, can impair neuronal development, as well as shorten human lifespan by about four years and increase the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer disease by several-fold, he said.

"The chimpanzee apoE functions more like the "good" apoE3, which contributes to low levels of heart disease and Alzheimer's," Finch said.

Full story here.

Experimental Drug Is Combating Hepatitis C In Chimps

hapatitusAn experimental antiviral drug that works by a different mechanism than existing drugs has been shown to suppress hepatitis C in chimpanzees and is already being tested in human clinical trials, researchers reported Thursday.

The new agent is a so-called antisense drug that binds to RNA required by the virus for replication, preventing the virus from proliferating in the liver. Preliminary tests suggest that the drug, called SPC3649, has no toxic side effects, does not allow development of resistance -- which plagues other hepatitis drugs -- and has lasting effects after treatment has stopped.

"If you had asked me five years ago, I would have been very skeptical that this approach would work," said microbiologist Peter Sarnow of Stanford University, who was not involved in the research. But the new results, reported in the online version of the journal Science, "are very exciting," he said.

An estimated 170 million people worldwide, and 3 million to 4 million Americans, have chronic hepatitis C infections. The persistent infections produce scarring of the liver, or cirrhosis, and frequently lead to liver cancer, which is the most rapidly increasing cause of cancer death in the United States, according to virologist Robert E. Lanford of the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas. Life expectancy is a year after diagnosis, he said.

The current treatment for hepatitis C combines the antiviral agent ribavirin with a long-lasting form of interferon. But the treatment has harsh side effects that cause many patients to stop using it, and is effective in about half of those who are able to finish the 48-week regimen.

It has proven difficult to come up with new, effective treatments, Lanford said. He works with chimpanzees, which are the only animals other than humans that can be infected by the virus. He has tested many experimental drugs in the animals as a last step before human testing. The most promising of these drugs usually fail after a few weeks because the virus develops resistance to them, he said.

Full story here.

Protesters Gather To Save Space Monkeys

monkeyAnimal rights activists, some dressed in monkey suits and posing in cages, will protest today at Belmont’s McLean Hospital against a controversial Harvard Medical School study that involves zapping primates with massive doses of radiation.

“Monkeys are highly social, sensitive and intelligent animals who suffer immensely in laboratories,” said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals investigator Kathy Guillermo. “Condemning them to a lifetime of torment, pain and confinement at McLean Hospital for another trivial NASA experiment about space travel is unjustifiable.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Commission is spending a reported $1.75 million to zap 28 squirrel monkeys with radiation levels comparable to three years of space travel. The animals will be dosed in New York and shipped to McLean to live out their lives in cages under the watch of Harvard doctors. PETA officials say similar tests on monkeys have caused fatal cancer, cognitive decline and premature aging.

Harvard officials have declined to comment. PETA members were scheduled to protest outside McLean at noon.

Full story here.

Monkeys Recognize Their Pals in Photos

Monkeys can recognize photographs of other monkeys they know, proving that they can both detect differences in faces and figure out if they've seen them before, researchers report.

The study also shows that capuchin monkeys can decipher the two-dimensional nature of a photograph, the scientists authors noted.

The findings, reported by researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, are published the week of Dec. 4 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the study, the monkeys looked at four photos, including one of a monkey they knew. They also looked at another four monkey photos, including one of a monkey they didn't know.

"This required monkeys to look at similar-looking faces and use their personal knowledge of group mates to solve the task," lead researcher Jennifer Pokorny, said in a university news release. "They readily performed the task and continued to do well when shown new pictures in color and in grayscale, as well as when presented with individuals they had never before seen in pictures, though with whom they were personally familiar."

Full story here.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Orangutan Becomes Hit Facebook Photographer

orangutan photoA 33-year-old furry photographer is winning fans on social networking website Facebook for pictures of her daily life as an orangutan in a Vienna zoo.

Orangutan Nonja's photos, taken with a camera that dispenses raisins as she snaps, have won over 500 fans on Facebook since the zoo launched an online photo album on Tuesday.

Although the slightly blurry images of Nonja's climbing rope, food and companion's shaggy red-brown fur have won lots of admiring comments from fans, the photographer herself is not so interested.

"Of course the apes don't care about the pictures, they are just an accidental side product," zoo spokesman Gerhard Kasbauer told Reuters. "They just know that when they press the button, a raisin pops out."

The Vienna Tiergarten set up the project to help keep Nonja and her three hairy ape friends entertained in their enclosure.

Facebook album here.
Full story here.

Orphaned Gorillas Returned To Congo Nature Park

gorilla orphanConservationists say two baby mountain gorillas have moved to a lush jungle sanctuary formerly closed to them because of violent instability in eastern Congo.

Virunga National Park director Emmanuel de Merode said Wednesday the gorillas moved Tuesday into their new home in the park. The orphaned gorillas were forced to live in a house in the bustling city of Goma for two years because of fighting in eastern Congo.

Female orphans Ndeze and Ndakasi were abandoned in 2007 and are the world's only captive baby mountain gorillas.

The park is also building a sanctuary where schoolchildren and tourists can observe the 2 1/2-year-old gorillas from hidden platforms.

Full story here.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Anthrax Research Stopped Over Euthanasia

baboon researchOklahoma State University administrators stopped a pending program testing anthrax vaccines on baboons because the animals would be euthanized, officials say.

The bioterrorism research was to be carried out in a multimillion dollar lab at the university set up specifically for that purpose, the Oklahoman reported Monday.

An internal faculty committee spent a year designing procedure for the use and care of the baboons. University President Burns Hargis sent an e-mail to veterinary medicine researchers saying he would not allow the National Institutes of Health-funded project, the newspaper said.

"This research was not in the best interest of the university. The testing of lethal pathogens on primates would be a new area for OSU that is controversial and is outside our current research programs" said OSU spokesman Gary Shutt.

Veterinarian Michael Davis said using the primates for research is important because they are biologically similar to humans. But after they've been exposed to the anthrax virus they must be euthanized so as not to infect others, the Oklahoman said.

"We don't want to, but by the same token we don't want people to be killed by anthrax," Davis said. "Right now, this is the only way and the best way we have of preventing someone from getting killed by anthrax."

Full story here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thailand Holds Annual Feast For Monkeys

Twenty chefs. Two tonnes of grilled sausage, fresh fruit, vegetables, ice cream, milk and jelly. Two thousand guests. A lot of monkey business.

The town of Lopburi in Thailand celebrated its annual Monkey Festival over the weekend, laying out a lavish banquet for the more than 2,000 macaques that roam freely through it.

Locals believe that providing food for the monkeys, Lopburi's most famous residents, brings good fortune and prosperity. The feast is also a sort of "thank you" for the animals whose antics entice thousands of tourists to the town every year.

Twenty chefs from some of Bangkok's top hotels prepared the feast for the primates at the downtown San Pra Kan shrine.

"This is very exciting because I've never done this before," said veteran chef Wuttichart Muadsri. "I've only ever served people in a hotel."

Buffet tables groaned with the feast, which cost more than 500,000 baht ($15,000) and that included a pricey variety of the pungent durian fruit, which the monkeys ate with gusto.

Full story here.

Florida Man Reunited With His Monkey

black tufted monkeyPeaches and Herb would no doubt be thrilled at the news this morning that a missing black-tufted marmoset (or, as we call it in English, "a monkey") was returned to its owner in Hollywood late Friday night after a daring rescue by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Okay, we made up the "daring" part. Details of the rescue weren't immediately available, and when life presents a monkey rescue story it's just more fun to imagine the captive in a tiny dungeon in little tattered pants being plucked from the clutches of evil at the last possible second. Monkeys in clothes are just so cute!

But pet Simon's escape was no laughing matter to owner Daniel Alamary, 25, who said his lil' rascal disappeared on Wednesday while Alamary was moving from Hollywood to Fort Lauderdale. Alamary was canvassing the neighborhood Thursday when an employee at North Lake Retirement Home told him that Simon had been spotted in the building. However, while Simon was entertaining residents, a visitor had expressed his intention to trap Simon and sell him.

The trail led to the trapper, who had indeed caught Simon and sold him to someone in Pembroke Pines. "The officers basically told him he'd be in a lot of trouble if he didn't say how he got that monkey," Alamary reported, "so he just told them everything."

Full story here.

Puerto Ricans Are Tired of Escaped, Belligerent Research Monkeys

escaped monkeysSome people on the island commonwealth are up in arms over the proposal by a company called Bioculture Ltd. to make Puerto Rico a major supplier of primates to researchers in the United States. Beyond the ethical issues connected to animal testing, the AP reports, Puerto Ricans have “a bad history with research monkeys”:

The U.S. territory has long struggled to control hundreds of patas monkeys, descendants of primates that escaped in recent decades from research projects and now thrive in the lush tropical environment.

No labs want the patas monkeys because they’re no longer right for research, and many are diseased. There isn’t much demand from zoos, either. So rangers from the island’s Department of Natural Resources trap and kill them.

Full story here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Moment Of Baboon Lunch Theft Zen...

baboon eating lunchbaboon eating lunchbaboon stealing lunch
baboon car
baboon fred stealing lunch
On Tuesday, a troupe of 29 baboons raided four cars outside Simon's Town, a small coastal neighborhood. A baboon dubbed "Fred," the leader of the group, opened unlocked doors and jumped through windows to search for food.

He ransacked a bag in the back seat of a red car as a couple panicked about their passports. A girl screamed nearby as a baboon hopped into her car through a back window. Others climbed on car roofs and hoods, looking for ways inside.

Full story here.

Study Shows Opposites 'Really Do Attract'

mandrillWhen it comes to choosing a partner, monkeys pick a mate with genes dissimilar to their own, according to a new study.

That choice helps them to have healthy babies with strong immune systems, anthropologists say.

And they believe that the animals select mates with a different genetic make-up by using their acute sense of smell.

The findings add support to the controversial theory that people are also drawn to partners with different genes to their own.

Scientists often study mandrills, the world’s largest monkey, because of the animals’ similarity to humans.

The latest study, by anthropologists from the University of Durham, found that female mandrills were more likely to choose mates whose genes were complementary to theirs.

The team followed around 200 mandrills living in the tropical rainforest in Gabon in central Africa.

They believe that the monkeys picked genetically dissimilar mates through smelling their bodies, the aroma of which is partly determined through genes.

Dr Jo Setchell, who led the study, which is published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, said: "Mandrills are quite closely related to humans – we're both anthropoid primates – so our results support the idea that humans might choose genetically compatible mates.

Full story here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Congo's 'Mother Lode' Of Gorillas Remains Vulnerable

gorillaA new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society says that western lowland gorillas living in a large swamp in the Republic of Congo -- part of the "mother lode" of more than 125,000 gorillas discovered last year -- are becoming increasingly threatened by growing humans activity in the region.

The study recommends protection of the swamp forests adjacent to the southwest border of Lac Télé Community Reserve after recent surveys confirmed that high densities of the great apes still exist in the remote location.

The findings and recommendations appear in the November issue of the journal Oryx. The study's authors include: Hugo Rainey, Emma Stokes, Fiona Maisels, Samantha Strindberg, Fortuné Iyenguet, Guy-Aimé Malanda, and Bola Madzoké from the Wildlife Conservation Society: and Domingos Dos Santos from the Republic of Congo Minstère de l'Economie Forestière.

The swamp also supports large numbers of chimpanzees, red colobus monkeys, elephants, and other rain forest species. According to the study, imminent threats to the swamp include new logging operations, oil exploration, an influx of refugees from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, and, resulting from these developments, an increase in the human population, construction of roads and other infrastructure, and the escalation of the illegal bushmeat trade.

"We implore both the Government of the Republic of Congo and the international community to begin the groundwork for the creation of a new protected area to safeguard these gorillas and their unique environment for the benefit of future generations," said Dr. James Deutsch, WCS Director for Africa Programs. "Losing gorillas in this region after all the attention from their discovery would be a sad coda on an otherwise great story."

Full story here.

Pet Monkey Attacks Toddler

An Indiana toddler is recovering after being attacked by her uncle's monkey, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.

The monkey, Sammy, which belongs to Richard and Laura Burlos of LaPorte, reached out of its cage and grabbed the hood of 10-month-old Brenna Nystrom, who was being held by her grandmother.

Then Sammy let go of her hood and started pulling her hair.

While the rest of the family panicked, Laura Berlos reached into Sammy’s cage, grabbed the monkey and forced it to let little Brenna go.

The Berlos are allowed to own the monkey because Indiana is one of the few states that doesn’t require a special permit for the animals. Local animal control is aware of the animal and have visited the Berlos’ home numerous times.

Full story here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Toronto Zoo Gorilla Picks Son's Name By Choosing Fruit

charles the gorillaCharles the gorilla eyed a bank of cameras for a minute Wednesday morning before languidly reaching for a piece of fruit, unwittingly selecting his 2 1/2-month-old son's name.

Nassir, that's his baby.

The Toronto Zoo decided to give the proud papa a hand in choosing the name of their newest western lowland gorilla, born Sept. 2.

More than 5,000 name suggestions were submitted by members of the public. The only stipulation was the names had to start with the letter N, to honour the baby's mother Ngozi.

Zoo staff and a group of children whittled the mass of names down to the top 10, which were then voted on online. The five most popular were displayed Wednesday in the gorilla habitat, with a pile of fruit beneath each.

As he entered the habitat Charles circled the perimeter once, then took a seat next to the Nassir sign. He stared at the gathered members of the public and media, apparently weighing his options for a little while, before eating some fruit.

Full story here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Madagascar's Lemurs In Danger From 'Timber Mafia'

lemurThe lemur, a furry primate that symbolises Madagascar's unique biodiversity, is under renewed threat from a ''timber mafia'' pillaging the island's forests for profit.

Environmentalists warn that a political crisis in the impoverished country is reversing conservation gains of recent years and putting hundreds if not thousands of species, many not yet identified, at risk of extinction.

Madagascar, which has been isolated from land masses for more than 160 million years, is the world's fourth largest island and a ''conservation hot spot'', with thousands of exotic species found only here. These include nearly 100 species of lemur, six of which are deemed critically endangered.

Decades of logging, mining and slash-and-burn farming have destroyed 90 per cent of Madagascar's forests, though the rate has slowed down in the past two decades.

Former president Marc Ravalomanana was praised for putting 6 million hectares under protection and backing sustainable farming. But Mr Ravalomanana was ousted in March in a violent coup that led to a breakdown of law and order. And conservationists say that armed gangs are exploiting the security vacuum to pillage rosewood and ebony from supposedly protected forests on behalf of a so-called ''timber mafia''.

Full story here.

Toronto Zoo Gorilla Will Choose His Baby's Name

gorilla babyFor the past two months, the newest addition to the Toronto Zoo's gorilla family has been nameless, simply referred to by curious observers and visitors to the African pavilion as "the baby." But on Wednesday, Ngozi and Charles's offspring will finally have a name – and it will be one chosen by the proud daddy.

The shortlist, all starting with "N" to honour its mother, includes Nassir, Neo, Niko, Nigel and Nsambu.

The names were selected from an initial list of 5,000 submitted by visitors to the zoo in September. A panel of animal care staff narrowed the list down to 10. Over the past two weeks, 11,000 votes have been cast online to help choose the last five names.

Now, Charles will have the final say.

How will he decide? By turning to his stomach for help.

The five names will be posted on pails, each filled with one of Charles' favourite treats. His keepers are still deciding what foods to put out, to ensure neutrality among all the names. So when Charles finally picks a pail, he won't just be choosing his mid-morning snack.

Full story here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Villagers Register Police Case To Arrest Monkey

monkey police recordThe cry for help aroused even the most hardbitten policeman’s sympathy. A mother was appealing to them to save her newborn baby from being killed by her jealous husband.

Jhumuri had already gone into hiding with son Kuna, so she was sending a written complaint, complete with her thumb impression, through a group of Samaritans to Astarang police station, Puri district.

The police immediately registered a case under three sections of the penal code: 363 (kidnapping), 366 (abducting for slavery) and 307 (attempt to murder).

Except that it turned out that the complainant was a female monkey.

The police, who realised this when they went to the neighbourhood to investigate, said they would not take action against the people who came with the complaint yesterday afternoon. “We have dropped the case,” a policeman said.

Indian police are often accused of refusing to register cases on complaints from poor, illiterate people, but this time the boot seemed to be on the other foot.

The complaint said Jhumuri’s “husband”, Raja, had already killed her first child and, after Kuna was born, had attacked it several times. Jhumuri had then fled home with her baby, prompting Raja and his gang of males to start camping in Astarang market, looking for her.

Jhumuri, the complaint said, had then fled to residential areas near the market and was hiding there. “She has been staying with us for the past few days,” Lingaraj Chotai, who has given shelter to Jhumuri, told the police.

Full story here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Search For Fugitive Monkey In East Tampa Called Off

monkey in treeThe search for the mysterious monkey spotted in east Tampa is over, but the creature is still on the loose.

The primate, believed to be part of the macaque family, was spotted up a tree about 11 a.m. Wednesday in a residential community near E Sligh Avenue and N 30th Street, said Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Officials first checked with nearby Lowry Park Zoo, but all of those monkeys were safe and sound, said zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson.

Then they took to the streets, trying to catch the creature as it roamed near Rowland Park. Officials first thought it may have been a large squirrel or raccoon, but they soon confirmed that this was a primate on the lam.

The search ended about 5:30 p.m. when officials lost sight of the monkey. It seemed best just to let it go.

"It's a fruitless effort to go looking for it," Morse said. "It's like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Full story here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chimp Attack Victim Unveils Horrific Injuries

chimp attack A US woman who was attacked by a 90kg chimpanzee revealed her heavily disfigured face on television on Wednesday, saying she is blind and has to eat through a straw, but isn't angry.

"I don't even think about it," Charla Nash said on Wednesday's episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. "And there's no time for that anyways because I need to heal, you know, not look backwards."

Winfrey removed Nash's hat and veil to reveal her face, which was swollen and damaged beyond recognition. She had a large scar near the bottom of her face and a large piece of skin where her nose had been.

The February 16 attack occurred when the animal's owner, Sandra Herold, asked Nash, her friend and employee, to help lure the animal back into her house in Stamford, Connecticut. The chimpanzee ripped off Nash's hands, nose, lips and eyelids.

Police shot and killed the animal. Nash has been hospitalised since. She remains in stable condition at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Full story here.

Success Boosting Monkey Muscle Could Help Humans

Monkeys that had a gene injected into their legs developed bigger, stronger thighs in an experiment that may pave the way for human trials testing the therapy in people with muscle-wasting diseases.

Several diseases including muscular dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, cause muscle weakness and have no effective treatments, said Jerry Mendell, director of the gene therapy center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and an author of the study published today in Science Translational Medicine.

The therapy works by blocking a protein, myostatin, that degrades muscle. Reversing muscle loss in the thigh may help patients who struggle to stand or walk, said R. Rodney Howell, chairman of the board of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a nonprofit group based in Tucson, Arizona. The results may also interest a group of people who aren’t the intended beneficiaries -- athletes who want to improve performance, Howell said.

“We’re always looking for new treatments and at this time we don’t have any specific cures for the muscular dystrophies so an observation like this that might well benefit a lot of people is very exciting,” Howell said today in a telephone interview.

Full story here.

Monkey On The Loose In Tampa

monkey on the looseEast Tampa residents called animal control Wednesday about a monkey running loose in their neighborhood.

Gary Morse with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission identified the animal as a Macaque monkey. Officials said while the animal may seem cute, it can carry diseases.

Officials were able to confirm what type of monkey it was because their investigator crawled up the tree on a ladder and saw it face-to-face. The monkey escaped before they could trap it.

It was last seen near the Norwood Apartment complex.

Full story here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Device Takes Gorilla's Blood Pressure

gorilla blood pressureOne of the gorillas at Zoo Atlanta has been under pressure lately. Zoo keepers, along with undergraduate students from Georgia Tech and reseachers from Emory University, got a western lowland gorilla named Ozzie to voluntarily have his blood pressure taken by a machine students designed called the Gorilla Tough Cuff. Zoo officials say it's the first time a gorilla has ever voluntarily had its blood pressure taken in any zoo in the world.

Zoo keepers trained Ozzie for months on how to use the cuff before he did it on his own. Zoo officials say the machine can be used to detect heart problems in aging gorillas like Ozzie, who is 48 years old.

Full story here.

Gene Found That Seems Key In Evolution Of Speech

gene speechChimps, our nearest relative, don't talk. We do. Now scientists have pinpointed a mutation in a gene that might help explain the difference.

The mutation seems to have helped humans develop speech and language. It's probably not the only gene involved, but researchers found the gene looks and acts differently in chimps and humans, according to a study published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.

Lab tests showed that the human version regulated more than 100 other genes differently from the chimp version. This particular gene — called FOXP2 — mutated around the time humans developed the ability to talk.

"It's really playing a major role in chimp-human differences," said the study's author, Daniel Geschwind, a professor of neurology, psychiatry and human genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles. "You mutate this gene in humans and you get a speech and language disorder."

This tells you "what may be happening in the brain," he said.

Frances Vargha-Khadem, head of developmental cognitive neuroscience at the University College London, who wasn't part of the research, said the study "is very much in line with what we had always suspected."

Vargha-Khadem has studied people with other inherited mutations in the gene and their speech and language problems. People with a certain mutation have subtle physical differences in the lower part of the jaw, the tongue and roof of the mouth, and she suspects chimps do, too.

That physical part is important because "you can't produce the dance unless you have the feet to do the dance," she said.

Eventually, work on this gene and others could potentially lead to genetic treatments for people with certain developmental difficulties, such as autism, because it gives future researchers targets, Geschwind said.

Full story here.

Rare Monkey Interbred with Baboons, Study Suggests

monkey interbred baboonOne of Africa's rarest monkeys likely interbred with baboons in its past, new genetic research suggests.

The large monkey called Rungwecebus kipunji, or kipunji for short, was only discovered in 2003, and in 2006 it was found to be an entirely new primate genus, the first such addition since 1923. The shy tree-dwelling monkey, with a black face and long brown fur, resides in two forest patches in Tanzania totaling just 7 square miles (18 square km).

Scientists aren't sure when baboons, which include several species in the Papio genus, diverged from Rungwecebus. But the two look different, with baboons sporting a long flat nose not found in kipunji, and male baboons typically boasting a much larger body size, reaching up to about 65 pounds (30 kg). Male kipunji can weigh up to about 30 pounds (15 kg).

A team of researchers led by Trina Roberts of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, N.C., has just run genetic analyses of dung and tissue samples collected from both kipunji populations: one in Tanzania's Southern Highlands and the other nearby in the Udzungwa Mountains.

In samples from the Southern Highlands, they found bits of DNA similar to that of baboons, suggesting, the researchers say, the two primates interbred at some point after they diverged.

"Way back in time in the evolutionary history of this population there was at least one event where there was some cross-fertilization with a baboon," said study researcher Tim Davenport of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The Udzungwa samples showed no traces of baboon DNA.

Full story here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Topeka Zoo's Gorilla Died Of Aneurysm

gorillaThe Topeka Zoo's male gorilla died "from a rupture of an aortic aneurysm," zoo director Mike Coker said Monday afternoon.

M'Bili was found dead Saturday morning in his enclosure. Coker said the 17-year-old gorilla hadn't been exhibiting any outward signs of illness or distress.

Kansas State University veterinarians conducted a necrospy -- or animal autopsy -- during the weekend, and the results were released Monday. An aortic aneurysm is a weakening of the heart wall, and a rupture causes internal bleeding.

Histiopathy results, such as blood work and organ sample tests, are pending.

Full story here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Gorilla Dies At Topeka Zoo Amid Controversy

gorilla diesThe controversy-plagued Topeka Zoo on Saturday reported another death of an animal at an age below its typical life expectancy.

Zoo director Mike Coker said a necropsy was being conducted to try to determine the cause of death for M'Bili, a male Lowland gorilla who was found dead Saturday morning at the age of 17 years, eight months.

The typical longevity for a Lowland gorilla in captivity is 40 to 50 years, according to Coker.

He said M'Bili hadn't been exhibiting any outward signs of illness or distress before being found deceased by zoo staff about 7:30 a.m. Saturday in his night quarters.

M'Bili was taken by zoo staff to the Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine, where a necropsy was being conducted. Coker said he would release details publicly as soon as he has them.

Full story here.

Charlie The Chimp Died Of A Heart Clot

charlie the chimpA detailed necropsy performed on Charlie the chimp showed that the Oregon Zoo's revered resident died as a result of an infarction, a clot in his heart that caused an irregular heart rhythm.

"It would cause a very acute sort of death, it happens in people sometimes," senior veterinarian Mitch Finnegan said.

Charlie died Sept. 17 at age 39, considered late middle-age for a chimp. A zoo volunteer said Charlie, who had been energized all day and appeared to be in good health, rushed into the chimp exhibit's indoor space, bristled at visitors through the glass in a customary dominance display, then collapsed.

The four female chimps who lived with Charlie for more than three decades gathered around, shrieking and preventing zoo staff from immediately reaching Charlie and attempting cardio pulmonary resuscitation. Chimpanzees are fiercely strong, wildly emotional and can cause grotesque injuries, so must be handled with care.

"We couldn't get to him because of the females," Finnegan said. "It was over 10 minutes, the females were hysterical. When I got there I could see he'd stopped breathing. I could see a pulse, then it stopped about a minute later."

A memorial service at the zoo five days later drew hundreds of people, and an on-line message site filled with more than 90 tributes from people all over the country.

Full story here.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

El Niño Cycles Threaten Some New World Monkey Populations

threatened monkeysEl Niño atmospheric oscillations over the Pacific Ocean wreak havoc on monkey populations, either in the midst of the periodic hot and dry spells or in their chilly aftermath, according to the results of a new study.

The study, published in the October 28 issue of Biology Letters, explored the correlation of El Niño years, when above normal temperatures in the Tropical Pacific cause drought and flooding in different parts of the world, with fluctuations in monkey populations and the abundance of their food resources. It is the first report on the impact of El Niño on monkey species that live in Central and South America, many of which are threatened or endangered. The study focused on four species: red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus), which subside primarily on leaves, along with two species of woolly monkeys (Brachyteles arachnoides and Lagothrix lagotricha), and a variety of spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), all of whose staple diet is fruit.

"I thought it was interesting when I got [the] results that the howlers were declining in the same year [as an El Niño], and the other three species were declining the same year" that followed El Niño events, says Ruscena Wiederholt, a graduate student of ecology at The Pennsylvania State University's Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and first author on the study.

Full story here.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Denver's Gorilla Run Sets World Record

gorilla runMore than 1,000 people in gorilla suits crammed streets and bike paths in LoDo Saturday morning, setting a Guiness World Record for the most people dressed as gorillas in one location. The 1,061 simulated simians were participating in the 6th annual Denver Gorilla Run, a 3.5-mile charity run/walk to help mountain gorilla conservation.

The event is organized by the Denver-based Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, which seeks to continue the work of slain gorilla researcher and conservationist Dian Fossey. The fund is in the midst of a drive to raise money for an expansion of a veterinary training facility in Uganda, in order to teach locals how to provide necessary veterinary care to mountain gorillas in their country.

Full story here.

Denver Gorilla Run Website.

Monday, November 02, 2009

NASA To Start Irradiating Monkeys

nasa radioactive monkeysNASA is stepping up its space radiation studies with a round of experiments that for the first time in decades will use monkeys as subjects.

The point of the experiments is to understand how the harsh radioactive environment of space affects human bodies and behavior and what countermeasures can be developed to make long-duration spaceflight safe for travelers beyond Earth's protective magnetic shield.

For the new study, 18 to 28 squirrel monkeys will be exposed to a low dose of the type of radiation that astronauts traveling to Mars can expect to encounter.

Scientists are particularly interested in studying how the radiation impacts the monkeys' central nervous systems and behaviors over time.

Full story here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Global Warming Cycles Threaten Endangered Primate Species

monkeys climateSeveral endangered species of monkey are likely to be pushed further towards extinction by the effects of climate change, research has suggested.

At least four primates from South America that appear on the international Red List of endangered species are adversely affected by climate phenomena that are predicted to worsen as the world warms, scientists have found.

The muriqui, the Colombian red howler monkey, the woolly monkey and Geoffroy’s spider monkey, have all declined in population either during or soon after recent El Niño events, according to a study from a team at Pennsylvania State University.

Many scientists expect El Niño events, in which abnormally warm ocean temperatures in the southern hemisphere affect the climate, to become stronger or more frequent over the next century.

This could create fresh pressures on species that are already under threat. The muriqi and Geoffroy’s spider monkey are officially endangered, while the woolly monkey has vulnerable status and the Colombian red howler is classified as declining but of least concern.

Full story here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chimpanzees' Grief Caught On Camera In Cameroon

chimp funeral
More than a dozen chimps stand in silence watching from behind their wire enclosure as Dorothy, a chimp in her late 40s who died of heart failure, is wheeled past them.

The chimps are from the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon. Locals from the village work as "care-givers" for the orphaned animals whose mothers were all killed for the illegal bushmeat trade.

The photo was taken by Monica Szczupider, who was working at the centre.

Speaking about Dorothy, Miss Szczupider, 30, said the chimp was a "prominent figure" within a group of about 25 chimps.

"Chimps are not silent. They are gregarious, loud, vocal creatures, usually with relatively short attention spans", she said.

"But they could not take their eyes off Dorothy, and their silence, more than anything, spoke volumes."

Full story here.