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.