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.