Thursday, December 16, 2010

Monkeys Test Robotic Mind-Controlled Sleeves

Monkeys moved thought-controlled computer cursors more quickly and accurately when provided with additional sensory feedback, according to a new study in the Dec. 15 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. While most brain-machine technologies rely only on visual feedback, this study demonstrated that these systems can be improved when users have additional input, such as a sense of the arm's position and motion, a sensation known as proprioception.

With the aid of brain-controlled devices, paralyzed people have been able to send e-mail, play video games, and operate robotic arms. In this study, researchers led by Nicholas Hatsopoulos, PhD, of the University of Chicago, aimed to help further develop such machines for people who may still experience feeling in paralyzed limbs, including many patients with spinal cord injury and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

"Organisms use multiple senses, including sight and touch, as feedback to adjust motor behavior," Hatsopoulos said. "The ability to feel movements of the limbs and body is critical for normal motor control. Loss of this sense results in movements that are slow, poorly coordinated, and require great concentration."

The authors worked with two adult rhesus macaques to assess a system that incorporates a sense of movement. Each monkey was first trained to control a cursor using brain signals only; electrodes collected and processed data from the monkeys' motor cortex cells and transmitted those commands to the computer. Basic science research has shown that simply thinking about a motion activates brain cells in the same way that making the movement does, so each monkey needed to only think about moving a cursor to do it.

The researchers equipped each animal with a robotic "sleeve" that fit over an arm. In the first part of the experiment, the monkeys controlled the cursor by simply looking at the computer screen. In the second part, the robotic device moved the monkey's relaxed arm in tandem with the cursor movement, so the monkey could sense the cursor's motion in time and space. The authors found when the monkeys had the extra sensation, the cursor hit the target faster and more directly. The results also showed increased movement-related information in the activity of motor cortex cells, compared with visual-only feedback.

Full story here.

NASA Halts Monkey Irradiation Experiments

A proposed experiment that involves exposing tiny squirrel monkeys to blasts of potent radiation at a NASA-run facility on the campus of Brookhaven National Laboratory has been halted, according to space agency officials.

The experiment, designed by a Harvard-affiliated researcher, has been embroiled in a storm of controversy for more than a year. It has included a letter-writing campaign by schoolchildren eager to save the monkeys, and protests led by animal-rights activists who dressed in monkey suits and carried placards outside the lab.

Dr. Jack Bergman, a behavioral pharmacologist at McClean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., proposed exposing squirrel monkeys to high-energy radiation in a $1.75-million NASA-funded project. The object was to determine how effects on the animals' brains might suggest how people would fare during a deep-space voyage to Mars.

NASA operates the Space Radiation Laboratory, one of several major research facilities at Brookhaven. The NASA-run lab is the only center nationwide capable of producing the high-energy ions and protons that mimic the supercharged radiation environment pervading deep space.

"We were told we should remove [the experiment] from consideration . . . at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory," Peter Genzer, a spokesman for Brookhaven, said Tuesday.

Michael Braukus, a spokesman for NASA, said the space agency is re-evaluating a wide range of experiments. "The reality is the decision regarding the primate experiment is deferred until we conduct a comprehensive review of our current research and technology development plans."

Full story here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Monkey Day 2010!

Yes, it is that time of year again, December 14th, Monkey Day!  So, to help you celebrate your Monkey Day in style, we decided to gather up the very best news stories of the past year. Without further ado, I bring you (our favorite) top 10 Monkey and Primate News stories of 2010:

kung fu monkey

10)  Kung Fu Monkey

Based on the source of this story, this is obviously a street performer exploiting his domesticated monkeys.  We do not approve of it, but we also cannot help but include it based simply on the awesomeness of picture above.

9)  La Toya Jackson and Bubbles

Earlier this year, the world lost a once great performer, and his sister decided to remember him by visiting his old pet chimp, Bubbles.  But the real story is not in Latoya's bizzare interaction with Bubbles, but in the revelation that Michael had spent money researching throat surgery for Bubbles to allow him to speak.  If only Michael, if only...

8)  Report Of Loose Baboon In Missouri Is Hoax 

We don't care that this story was a hoax, watch the video above and you will understand why.  Frankly, with this woman's incredible knowledge of baboon calls and food traps, we are surprised that Missouri isn't overrun by baboons flocking to her mesmerizing mating call and to snack on discarded Cheetos and popcorn.

7)  Tampa's Mystery Monkey

A loose monkey in Tampa was catapulted to fame when he managed to elude his would be captors, even after being hit twice with tranquilizer darts.  Random spottings began to pop up, and he quickly gained support from the public, as of today his Facebook page has over 80,000 fans.  Sightings have dwindled off, but to our knowledge he has yet to be caught.

6)  'Never Slaughter A Chicken In Front Of A Monkey' 

Li Chun learned a hard bit of monkey lore when he adopted a one-legged monkey into his family.  Nursed back to health, the monkey began copying everything he did, including cracking eggs and slaughtering chickens.  80 chickens later, lesson learned.

5)  Extinct Chimp Virus Revived For Studies

As if this story wasn't already crazy enough, scarily this second story came out the same day.  Wasn't Morgan Freeman in this movie?

4)  Escaped Ape Attacks Kansas City Police Car
Anybody who is wondering if it might be a good idea to get a chimp as a pet, just watch the video above and think about how much effort it took to smash in the car window.

3)  Japanese Team Say Stem Cells Helped Paralyzed Monkey Jump Again

Japanese researchers claim they have used stem cells to restore partial mobility in a small monkey that had been paralyzed from the neck down by a spinal injury.  No snarky remarks, this is just incredible news.

2)  Taliban Training Monkey Terrorists?

I am certain there is not a single nugget of truth to this story, but the fact that CNN actually covered it, makes it all worth it.

1)  Mandrill Cannot Help Showing "The Finger" To Visitors

We here at Monkey News are simple folk, some times it's the little things that bring us the greatest joy.  Happy Monkey Day everyone!


Monday, December 13, 2010

New Head-Bobbing Lemur Discovered in Madagascar

A new long-tongued, squirrel-sized species of lemur has been discovered in Madagascar, researchers report today (Dec. 13).

The new creature doesn't have a species name yet, but is of the genus Phaner, otherwise known as fork-marked lemurs. These lemurs get their name from a black, Y-shaped line that starts above each eye and joins at the top of the head. The long-tongued species has a unique head-bobbing move that showed up in the flashlight beam as discoverers searched the treetops for a glimpse of the animal.

Conservation International president and primate expert Russ Mittermeier first spotted the lemur in 1995 during an expedition to northeastern Madagascar. He knew that his find was likely an unknown species, but he wasn't able to follow up until October 2010, when he led scientists and a BBC film crew into the area.

The team set out just after sunset when the Phaner are most vocal and heard one calling close to camp at the top of a tree. The Phaner was difficult to catch as it moved quickly through the treetops, so the team ran through the dense forest following the calls. Eventually, they caught sight of the animal in torchlight but had to wait until it moved into an open area to get a clean shot with a tranquilizer gun. Once a dart had found its target, one of the trackers quickly shimmied up the tree to retrieve it.

The adult male lemur was kept safe and sedated overnight so the team could examine it in detail and take samples in daylight. The researchers took blood samples for genetic analysis and slipped a microchip under its skin for identification and monitoring. Then they returned the lemur to the forest.

The animal has large hands and feet for gripping trees, and a long tongue for slurping up its diet of nectar. The new lemur also boasts specialized teeth for scraping bark off trees to get to the sweet gum beneath.

Full story here.

Himachal Farmers Kill Monkeys To Save Crops

Ignoring criticism by animal lovers, farmers in Himachal Pradesh have killed over 50 monkeys in the past two days to save their crops, a member of a peasants' group said Sunday.

The Kheti Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (KBSS), a farmers' outfit that took the initiative to motivate farmers take up guns against wild animals, said that 'Operation Monkey' would continue despite criticism from animal protection groups.

'Since the start of drive (Dec 10) against the menace of wild animals, especially the monkeys, we have reports that the farmers across the state have shot dead more than 50 monkeys,' KBSS state convenor Kuldeep Singh Tanwar told IANS.

He said the monkeys were mainly killed in Shimla, Sirmaur and Hamirpur districts.

Contrary to Tanwar's claims, state Chief Wildlife Warden A.K. Gulati said: 'We have reports that only one or two monkeys have been shot dead in the past few days.'

'It's a routine killing as the government authorised the farmers to selectively kill monkeys, wild boars and blue bulls in case they are destroying their crops,' he said.

He said any farmer in the state could get the permission from the wildlife department to kill animals threatening the crop.

Full story here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Twins Born To Rare Primates At Philadelphia Zoo

Two baby primate twins made their first public appearance on Thursday morning at the Philadelphia Zoo.

The little pied tamarins were born on November 3rd to mom Twiggy and dad Socks. They also join a brother and sister in the family at the Rare Animal Conservation Center.

The Zoo says the twins have white fur on their head and cheeks that will fade by adulthood.

So far, their sex is unknown and they have not yet been named.

For now, both babies do a lot of hanging around, riding of everyone's backs. That routine, however, will soon change!

In about a month from now, the babies will start to act more independent and more adolescent. One of their favorite activities will be cutting in line, so to speak, to get their food.

"They'll start to steal food from the adults and, once they do that, they'll begin their training program with the keepers as well," said Anna Halko-Angemi of the Philadelphia Zoo.

Full story here.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Japan Team Say Stem Cells Helped Paralyzed Monkey Jump Again

Japanese researchers said Wednesday they had used stem cells to restore partial mobility in a small monkey that had been paralysed from the neck down by a spinal injury.

"It is the world's first case in which a small-size primate recovered from a spinal injury using stem cells," professor Hideyuki Okano of Tokyo's Keio University told AFP.

Okano's research team, which earlier helped a mouse recover its mobility in a similar treatment, injected so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into a paralysed marmoset, he said.

The team planted four types of genes into human skin cells to create the iPS cells, according to Kyodo News.

The injection was given on the ninth day after the injury, considered the most effective timing, and the monkey started to move its limbs again within two to three weeks, Okano said.

"After six weeks, the animal had recovered to the level where it was jumping around," he told AFP. "It was very close to the normal level."

"Its gripping strength on the forefeet also recovered to up to 80 percent."

Okano called the research project a major stride to pave the way for a similar medical technique to be used on humans.

Full story here.

Endangered Mountain Gorilla Population On The Rise

The population of mountain gorillas in their main central African habitat has increased by a quarter in seven years, regional authorities said Tuesday.

Most of the world's mountain gorillas are found in the Virunga massif, which includes three contiguous national parks in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda.

The population of the iconic but endangered animal in that area increased from 380 individuals in 2003 to 480, according to a census carried out earlier this year and funded by a number of local and foreign wildlife organisations.

"The increase in mountain gorilla numbers is a testament that we in the Virunga massif are all reaping from the conservation efforts sowed on a daily basis," Rica Rwigamba, from the Rwanda Development Board said in a statement.

Full story here.

Melbourne Zoo Welcomes Baby Orangutan

Melbourne Zoo has welcomed another baby to its fold with the birth of a critically endangered Sumatran orang-utan this week.

Second-time mum Maimunah delivered the female just before midnight on Monday, the zoo announced today.

Curator of exotic animals Jan Steele said keepers observed the birth and had since maintained a 24-hour watch over the pair.
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The baby was quite large and Maimunah would need some time to recover, she said.

"We are watching Mai very carefully," Ms Steele said.

"At present she is looking uncomfortable and doesn't want to move, even for her favourite treat, mango. "She needs her rest right now, so she won't be taking the baby out into public view as yet."

Full story here.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Primates Are More Resilient To Environmental Ups And Downs

What sets mankind's closest relatives — monkeys, apes, and other primates — apart from other animals? According to a new study, one answer is that primates are less susceptible to the seasonal ups and downs — particularly rainfall— that take their toll on other animals. The findings may also help explain the evolutionary success of early humans, scientists say.

The study appeared online in the November 30 issue of American Naturalist.

"Wild animals deal with a world that's unpredictable from year to year," said study lead author Bill Morris, a biologist at Duke University. "The weather can change a lot; there can be years with plenty of food and years of famine," he explained.

To find out how well primates cope with this unpredictability compared with other animals, researchers working at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham, N.C. analyzed decades of birth and survival data for seven species of wild primates: muriqui monkeys and capuchin monkeys in Central and South America, yellow baboons, blue monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa, and sifakas (lemurs) in Madagascar.

Collecting this data was no small effort. Nearly every day for more than 25 years, seven research teams working around the world have monitored the births, lives, and deaths of thousands of individual primates.

Full story here.

San Francisco Gorilla Gets Gastro Surgery

An unusual medical procedure took place at the San Francisco Zoo this week - the patient was a gorilla.

Zura, 29, was having gastrointestinal problems, so doctors did an endoscopy to see what was wrong.

Part of the problem could be that Zura likes to taste anything she can get her hands on -- including cups, purses, and even cellular phones.

Once doctors get results of the endoscopy, they can figure out how to treat Zura.

Full story here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Researchers Study Homosexual Behavior In Golden Monkeys

Researchers at the Shennongjia National Nature Reserve were surprised to find on Nov. 29 that there are homosexual golden monkeys in their research base.

A few days ago, researchers at the Dalongtan Golden Monkey Scientific Research Base in Shennongjia followed the monkeys to observe their social behaviors as usual. A strange scene shocked them and they found that an adult male monkey called "Da Yang" quickly walked up behind another male monkey named "Yi Zuo Mao" and tightly held his waist.

"Yi Zuo Mao" immediately gave a response to "Da Yang" just like female monkeys do to initiate mating. Then, both monkeys gave gestures that were the same as those that occur during mating.

This scene made researchers note that the behavior had happened before under a complex background. Therefore, it was difficult to identify whether it was homosexual behavior. However, a series of clear actions this time made it clear that their behavior was in fact homosexual behavior between golden monkeys.

In the next few days, researchers also observed several homosexual acts among golden monkeys and there was a higher probability of homosexual activity among male monkeys than female monkeys. Researchers studied the phenomenon and analyzed that this has much to do with the social structure of golden monkeys.

Full story here.

Thailand Celebrates Annual Monkey Festival

Thousands of monkeys in Thailand were treated to a feast Sunday as the town of Lopburi celebrated its annual monkey festival.

The long-tailed monkeys feasted on three tons of boiled eggs, fresh fruit, vegetables and traditional Thai desserts.

Tables were set up for the feast at two of the town's most sacred sites, and monkeys roamed the buffet tables freely as they enjoyed their meal.

"It's very interesting, I've never seen so many monkeys. I've never seen anything like this," U.S. tourist Hannah Aosenfeld said.

The town is known for its monkeys, who roam about freely. People who live in the town think the monkeys bring good fortune and prosperity.

Hundreds of tourists came to the town to watch the monkeys enjoy their fancy buffet.

Full story here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rare Colony Of Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkeys Discovered

A hidden colony of endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkeys was recently discovered in Peru.

The colony was found by a team of international researchers from Neotropical Primate Conservation, a U.K. charity. The yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) is native to a small part of the Andean cloud forest in northeastern Peru, and is so rare that it was thought extinct until a few sightings in the mid-1970s.

A monkey with a bright yellow tail would seem easy to find, but studying this species has been nearly impossible. Not only does the yellow-tailed woolly monkey live in the remote valleys and steep mountains of Peru, but their home is also cocaine country and a former stronghold of Communist guerrillas.

The findings represent the first record of this species in the Peruvian area of La Libertad since 1974, and the first time that it has been reported in the area of Huanuco. These areas are often overlooked by conservationists as most of the known range of the monkey is found in the neighboring areas of Amazonas and San Martin.

"This is a find of significant importance for the conservation of this emblematic primate," said Sam Shanee, study team leader. "With such a small wild population, these new areas give new hope for the species' survival. There are already initiatives under way for the protection of the yellow-tailed woolly monkeys, which we hope will now include protection of these new populations."

Full story here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hamilton Zoo: Suzie The Chimp Passes Away

Suzie the chimpanzee has passed away at Hamilton Zoo. She was 46 years old.

A post mortem has revealed no single factor caused her death although it is known that she had cancer and that it had spread to other vital organs.

Hamilton Zoo director Stephen Standley says that earlier this week Suzie was examined to establish the extent of the cancer to see what could be done to improve her health and comfort. The ultrasound examination was successful and she made a good recovery from the anaesthetic and was responsive when last observed at approximately 7pm, however, she passed away in her sleep overnight.

“Zoo staff, especially those who care for and work with the chimps, are quite naturally saddened by the loss but are comforted by the fact that she passed away peacefully.”

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker says Suzie was much loved by the many to visit the zoo, one of Hamilton’s top visitor attractions.

“Suzie was one of the original chimps of the zoo, she will be missed by her keepers and visitors.”

Full story here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Smoking Chimpanzee Rescued In Lebanon, Sent To Brazil

A 12-year-old chimpanzee was heading to a sanctuary in Brazil on Monday after animal rights workers discovered him smoking cigarettes to entertain visitors at a Lebanese zoo.

Omega, who weighs around 132 pounds (60 kilograms), has never climbed a tree or seen other chimpanzees and has a troubling smoking habit he maintained from picking up cigarettes that visitors threw into his cage.

"The chimp still regularly smokes ... if someone will throw him a cigarette he'd pick it up and go for it straight away," said Jason Meier, executive director for animal rights group Animals Lebanon.

Full story here.

Pet Monkey Euthanized After Biting NY Woman

A pet Capuchin monkey that escaped from its owner and bit a central New York woman has tested negative for rabies.

The monkey named Jada attacked a woman and bit her on the finger as she played with her son Wednesday in the back yard of the family's home in Oneida Castle, 25 miles east of Syracuse.

Oneida County Health Department officials say the monkey was euthanized Wednesday to test for rabies.

Police say the owner provided proof of the monkey's rabies vaccination and a copy of his exotic pet license. But under state law, the monkey had to be tested. To check the animal for rabies, its brain tissue had to be examined after it was euthanized.

Full story here.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Franklin Park Zoo Gorilla Kiki Gives Birth

A Western lowland gorilla was born Wednesday morning in the Tropical Forest Building at the Franklin Park Zoo, officials said yesterday.

The baby, born at about 8:35 a.m., is the third child of Kiki and her mate, Kitome, nicknamed Kit. The couple already had two daughters, Kira, 11 and Kimani, 5, according to the statement.

“The baby looks good,’’ said Jeannine Jackle, assistant curator of the building. “It was reaching its arms out, moving its legs, and it gave out a good cry. Kiki appeared very calm and relaxed and was doing everything a gorilla mother should.’’

The baby was discovered by Shannon Finn, a senior zookeeper, after she had fed breakfast to Kiki, Kira, and Kimani. She left for about 15 minutes, and when she came back, she found the newborn baby, according to Jackle, who said she was glad Kiki’s daughters witnessed the birth.

The gender of the new baby is unknown, because Kiki is holding it close, not allowing zookeepers to get near it, Jackle said in an interview. Sometimes it can take weeks to discover a gorilla baby’s gender, she said.

The baby, who will be named in an upcoming contest, was the first born in the indoor habitat for the gorillas, built in 2007. “[The forest] is warm, and open all year; it’s like being outside indoors,’’ Jackle said. “We want to encourage people to come and watch this baby grow up.’’

Full story here.

Monkey Catchers On Guard For Barack Obama's India Visit

Delhi's police are to build 30-feet towers in jungle surrounding President Obama's hotel to protect him from terrorist attacks during next week's visit, and also shield from an invasion by the city's most persistent threat – monkeys.

They have been asked to erect 'machan' towers for elite commandos who will use powerful searchlights and night-sight binoculars to lookout for suspicious movement and any signs of a simian invasion.

The jungle opposite the president's suite at the exclusive ITC Mauriya Hotel is part of the city's Ridge forest which is home to many of the monkeys which terrorise the capital.

Tribes of the red-bottomed bhandar monkeys regularly overrun government office compounds, bite through expensive computer cables, attack people carrying food and cause general mayhem.

Local newspapers regularly report the latest victims of the 'monkey menace' but while officials are usually reluctant to take action against them – they symbolise the Hindu monkey God Hanuman – this time they are taking no chances.

Alongside heavily armed antiterrorist commandos, trained monkey-catchers will also be deployed.

"We will deploy commandos, snipers and even monkey catchers to ensure his safety," a police officer told The Hindustan Times.

Taj Hassam, joint commissioner of police (security) confirmed the issue was on the agenda for an "all-agency" meeting held on Monday.

Full story here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Cheeky, Missing Cross-Eyed Monkey Found Safe

A cross-eyed monkey stolen at the weekend has been found safe and returned to its wildlife park enclosure.

Thieves broke into the Nowra Wildlife Park on the New South Wales south coast and stole Cheeky, a tiny, two-year-old common marmoset, from a mesh enclosure at the weekend.

Possibly the only cross-eyed monkey in the country, its keepers feared it would struggle to survive without proper care.

The primate has spent her whole life at the park and head keeper Trent Burton told The Daily Telegraph yesterday she would find it very difficult adapting to change.

The ABC reports police discovered Cheeky at a home in Wollongong following a call to Crime Stoppers. They are questioning the residents.

Full story here.

Mandrill Cannot Help Showing "The Finger" To Visitors

He has a form of arthritis that causes him to raise his central digit when being watched having his picture taken at his zoo.

‘I was there photographing him, and a father and sons were watching him,’ said Mark Rogers, who captured the finger in full flight.

‘Jackson’s a bit grumpy and really doesn’t like being photographed, but what he likes even less is people shouting at him.

‘The father tried to make fake ape sounds and Jackson raised his hand with the finger extended.

‘The entire crowd watching him then laughed out loud and the father quickly stopped making the noise.’

Mr Rogers added: ‘I did find out later that the mandrill had arthritis in that finger. I can’t help but wonder if he used that to his advantage.’

A spokesman for San Francisco Zoo, where Jackson lives, said the baboon does not intend to offend.

‘He doesn’t usually swear at our visitors but at least he made people laugh as usually he hates the attention,’ he added.

Full story here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chinese Scientists Report Success In Transgenic Monkey Breeding

Chinese scientists said on Friday they had bred the country's first genetically engineered rhesus monkey, a step that could speed up the development of cures for diseases ranging from cancer to Alzheimer's.

Scientists used green fluorescent protein (GFP), a substance that was originally isolated from a jellyfish and is now commonly used as a biotech marker, and implanted transgenic embryos in the uterus of surrogate mother monkeys, said Ji Weizhi, a researcher with Kunming Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Two transgenic monkeys were born in June 2008, both carrying the GFP gene, said Ji, who heads the transgenic monkey research team.

An animal tagged with GFP glows green when exposed to ultraviolet light, proving that a key gene sequence has been switched on.

One of the transgenic monkeys has survived till today, making China the third country in the world to have genetically engineer a monkey, after the United States in 2001 and Japan last year.

The success could eventually lead to lab monkeys that replicate some of human's most devastating diseases, and provide a new model for exploring how they are caused and how they may be cured, said Dr. Niu Yuyu, a member of Ji's research team.

"The work is important because medical researchers have hankered for an animal model that is closer to the human anatomy than rodents," said Dr. Niu.

Mice and rats, genetically engineered to have the symptoms of certain human diseases, are the mainstay of pre-clinical lab work, in which scientists test their theories before trying out any outcome on human volunteers.

Monkey tests, however, are internationally controversial, as some experts have warned of a potential ethics storm, brewed by fears that technology used on primates could be then used to create genetically-engineered humans.

Full story here.

Extinct Chimp Virus Revived For Studies

A team of investigators announces that an ancient chimp virus has been revived so that researchers could study it in peace. Analyzing these organisms in the same manner as all other viruses are analyzed is extremely important for scientists.

Experts turn their attention to ancient pathogens which are known as endogenous viruses, and which had a long history. These organisms are now part of their host's genome.

Their DNA sequence is usually the only thing that can tell endogenous viruses apart from the genome, but the new investigation is making it possible to study this class of compounds without the need of sequencing.

CERV2, the chimpanzee endogenous retrovirus 2, can be found in the genome of monkeys, but not in that of humans. With the new accomplishment, looking at the material separately will become faster and easier.

The inactivity of CERV2 in humans seems to indicate that the two group separated long befor ethe monkeys became infected with the pathogen.

Existing anthropological records show that men and monkeys separated some 5 or 6 million years ago, and that the virus did not reach the new human population.

The new investigation was carried out by experts with the Laboratory of Retrovirology at the Rockefeller University, explains the leader of the lab, scientist Paul Bieniasz.

His group is conducting the investigations that are trying to determine how host defenses managed to stay one step ahead of the pathogens in this infection “game.”

Details of the new research appear in the latest issue of the esteemed scientific joural Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The research team hypothesizes that the ancient humans developed a mechanism of fighting the invading cells before they reached the cells, and not after.

Full story here.

Researcher May Have Contracted Virus Carried By Monkeys

At the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis, last year, a newly identified form of virus devastated a monkey colony and sickened a researcher, who likely carried it outside the facility, officials said.

The incident revealed Friday at a meeting of infectious disease specialists in Canada apparently went no further. The researcher recovered, and investigators did not find any others who were infected, said Nicholas Lerche, the Davis primate center’s chief veterinarian and associate director.

Could it have been worse?

"Don’t panic, but be concerned," said Greg Gray, an expert on the spread of infectious diseases from animals to humans at the University of Florida.

Here’s what happened:

Starting in May 2009, about two dozen titi monkeys, small primates from South America, were attacked by an infection that killed 19 of them despite intensive veterinary care, Lerche said.

A researcher who worked with the monkeys developed symptoms that included a fever, dry cough and chest pain. The person was sick for several weeks but never sought medical attention, he said.

Later the researcher tested positive for antibodies that indicated the person had contracted the same virus as the monkeys, Lerche said. No one else at the center or at the researcher’s home had the virus, he said.

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, examined the virus and determined it was a previously unidentified type of adenovirus.

Adenoviruses cause a variety of diseases, including respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, pinkeye, hepatitis and pneumonia.

"To our knowledge, this is the first example of a cross-species transmission event from adenovirus infection," wrote UCSF scientist Charles Chiu in a report he gave Friday to the Infectious Diseases Society of America at the group’s annual meeting, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Studies are continuing to determine whether the monkeys infected the researcher or the researcher infected the monkeys, Chiu wrote.

Full story here.

Monkey Fossils Suggest Primates Came Out of Asia, Not Africa

The ancestors of monkeys, apes and humans were thought primarily to have originated in Africa, but now what may be the oldest examples of such fossils discovered yet on the continent suggest these primates might have originally arisen in Asia, researchers suggest.

The dating of the newfound fossils is controversial, however.

The origin of anthropoids — the simians, or "higher primates" — has been hotly debated for decades among scientists. Although a series of fossils unearthed in Egypt have long suggested that Africa was the cradle for anthropoids, other bones revealed in the last 15 years or so raised the possibility that Asia may be their birthplace.

Now paleontologists have revealed the earliest known African anthropoids found to date — three previously unknown kinds of the primates from Dur At-Talah in central Libya that apparently date back 38 million to 39 million years ago.

The anthropoids would have been remarkably small, with the adults weighing just 1/4 to 1 pound. The fossils were also quite distinct from each other, showing that anthropoids were significantly more diverse at that early time in Africa than scientists had thought. This diversity is what suggests previous origins in Asia.

"This extraordinary new fossil site in Libya shows us that in the middle Eocene, 39 million years ago, there was a surprising diversity of anthropoids living in Africa, whereas few if any anthropoids are known from Africa before this time," said researcher Christopher Beard, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

The findings might suggest these primates spent far more time evolving and diversifying than before considered, but the researchers contend that anthropoids seem absent at earlier sites in Africa. As such, "this sudden appearance of such diversity suggests that these anthropoids probably colonized Africa from somewhere else," Beard said. "Without earlier fossil evidence in Africa, we're currently looking to Asia as the place where these animals first evolved."

Full story here.

First Gorilla Born At London Zoo In 20 Years

After tragedy, there was joy in the gorilla enclosure at London Zoo with the arrival of a new baby - the first to be born there in 20 years.

And now staff are starting the delicate process of introducing the as-yet unnamed male to the head of the family - hulking Kesho.

The newborn western lowland gorilla was born to mother Mjukuu, 12, on Tuesday.

His father, Yeboah, died at the zoo in March after arriving in November 2009. He had been brought in as a mate to three female gorillas, Mjukuu, Zaire and Effie.

Yeboah was the second male gorilla to die at the zoo after Bobby, a 25-year-old silverback, died in December 2008.

Staff at the zoo began the "sensitive" process of introducing the baby gorilla to his step-father, 11-year-old Kesho.

In a statement, the zoo said: "Introducing the baby to Kesho is not without its risks, however staff are making every effort to assist a smooth introduction and hopefully ensure the gorillas form a cohesive family group."

Full story here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

'Naked' Chimpanzee Guru Is Star Attraction At Indian Zoo

Guru, the 20-year-old male, has virtually no hair covering his body and looks startlingly human.

He is kept at the Mysore Zoo in southern India, and has attracted hundreds of curious visitors.

Dr Suresh Kumar, a zoo vet said: "Everybody wants to see his biceps and triceps.

"He looks like a human being sitting naked in front of you. So it looks amazing."

Despite hair loss, the mischievous chimp makes a lot of noise and doesn't stop throwing stones and faeces on the visitors.

"He beats his chest, and claps a lot when children come near his enclosure," said Dr Suresh.

Guru had lost all his hair before he was rescued from a local circus.

He was moved to the Mysore zoo in 2003 and has been undergoing treatment for the disease.

Full story here.

New Species of Sneezing Monkey Found in Asia

Rhinopithecus strykeri
Almost by definition, species unknown to science are often tough to track down. But researchers seeking out a new species of primate in northern Myanmar were assured by locals that the monkeys aren't hard to find at all. You just have to wait for it to rain.

The new species, a previously unknown type of snub-nosed monkey dubbed Rhinopithecus strykeri, has a nose so upturned that the animals sneeze audibly when it rains. To avoid inhaling water, the monkeys supposedly sit with their heads tucked between their knees on drizzly days, according to local hunters.

The discovery, reported today (Oct. 26) in the American Journal of Primatology, was made by biologists from the Myanmar Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association and primatologists from Fauna and Flora International and the People Resources and Biodiversity Foundation.

The research team was working on a survey of gibbons in northeastern Myanmar in early 2010 when villagers told them about a monkey with an odd nose and prominent lips. Based on the descriptions, the researchers suspected the locals were seeing snub-nosed monkeys, threatened primates previously found only in China and Vietnam.

Intrigued, the team investigated further, surveying field sites and interviewing local villagers. The monkeys were well-known in the area, with villagers in 25 of 33 locations reporting monkey sightings. Several hunters provided skulls and hides from the monkeys, which have now been placed in museum collections in Switzerland and Myanmar.

After studying the specimens, the researchers realized they had a new species on their hands. The monkeys are about 21 inches (55 centimeters) long from upturned nose to rump, but their 30-inch (78 cm) tails more than double their length. Their fur is black with white ear tufts. Except for their white moustaches, the monkeys' faces are bare and pink.

The villagers in the area call the monkeys “myuk na tok te” or “mey nwoah,” both names meaning "monkey with an upturned nose," the researchers write. The monkeys themselves live in a mountainous area separated from other species by two rivers. Their range is probably no more than 167 square miles (270 square kilometers), and they likely number no more than 330. That makes the newly discovered monkey critically endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards.

Full story here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sueko, The Rampaging Chimp Update

Full story here.

Escaped Ape Attacks Kansas City Police Car

A 300-pound chimpanzee that broke free from its chains has been captured after briefly wandering around a Kansas City neighborhood and smashing out the window of a police car.

Police Capt. Rich Lockhart tells The Kansas City Star the department got a call about noon Tuesday that a primate was on the loose a few miles from the Kansas City Zoo.

Lockhart says the ape was actually a pet that escaped from its chains. Lockhart says efforts to shoot the animal, named Sueko, with a tranquilizer dart failed.

The chimp climbed on a patrol car and struck the passenger-side window with its fist before running off.

Its owner was eventually able to coax it into a cage. Lockhart says the owner has been cited for having a dangerous animal within city limits.

Full story here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oregon Zoo Euthanizes Ailing Colobus Monkey

The Oregon Zoo announced Tuesday that veterinarians had euthanized a colobus monkey ailing from an abscess that impaired her heart function.

Mali, 14, mothered three offspring -- the first a challenge, perhaps because her own mother died when she was a few months old and she'd never witnessed a mother colobus caring for an infant. But with time, keepers recalled, she developed the right maternal instincts.

Infants are born with white fur but after a few months develop luxurious black and white coats.

"Mali had a quiet, stoic nature about her," keeper Liz Zimmerman said in a zoo news release. "I believe she had a complexity to her that she kept well hidden behind her shy gestures. Miss Mali will be greatly missed and fondly remembered."

Full story here.

Baby Gorilla Born At Buffalo Zoo

It's a girl gorilla.

No, it's a boy gorilla.

Because of a very protective mother, the gender of the first gorilla born in the Buffalo Zoo in 10 years remains a mystery.

Sidney, born at the zoo in 1997, gave birth Friday for her first time. Wednesday, mother and baby were on public view together for the first time, spending their time between the exhibit area and a private space behind it.

The father is 23-year-old Koga, also a first-time parent.

"We're very excited," Donna Fernandes, the zoo's director, said of the zoo's fifth gorilla. "The baby is very healthy and nursing strongly. Sidney has been a great mother."

For the past several years the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan discouraged gorilla breeding, after eight surviving gorillas were born at the Buffalo Zoo in the 1980s.

Full story here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stolen Monkey Was Deliberately Killed

Police have condemned the deliberate killing of a rare monkey which was found dead north of Brisbane at the weekend.

It is believed a male and pregnant female cotton-top tamarin escaped from Alma Park Zoo when thieves broke in and tried to steal them on Saturday.

The male monkey was found the next day in a suburban backyard and tests show it had been hurled on the ground, kicked and stomped on.

Inspector Russell Miller say killing an endangered animal is a serious crime.

"They could face up to two years jail," he said.

"There is no doubt in the world that it was deliberate - the lock on the cage was cut so someone was certainly deliberate enough to do that to the cage.

"It's just inhumane ... to do anything like that to any animal is just inexcusable."

The female monkey is still missing and the zoo's owners do not know if it is alive.

Full story here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monkey Snared In Shizuoka After Biting More Than 100 People

A monkey believed to have bitten more than 100 people in eastern Shizuoka Prefecture since August was captured Oct. 10 after being cornered in the home of a resident here.

A Mishima official said there was no doubt that the captured macaque monkey was the one that had been attacking people, as it was snared shortly after three people were attacked nearby and there had been no other sightings or reports of injuries afterwards.

"We're just relieved that we've caught it," the official said.

Municipal government officials said the monkey was spotted on the second-floor balcony of the home of 33-year-old resident Yuki Yoneyama at about 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. His 36-year-old wife opened the window to their children's room, and when the money went inside, Yoneyama shut it from the outside, trapping the animal.

The monkey scampered into a closet, but municipal government workers and police who arrived at the home used a tear-inducing spray to drive it out, and captured it with a net at about 1:30 p.m.

A spate of monkey attacks had occurred in the eastern Shizuoka cities of Mishima, Numazu and Fuji from August 22. On Oct. 10 a 5-year-old girl was bitten, bringing the number of people to have suffered light injuries in the attacks to 117.

The city offered a 200,000 yen reward to anyone who could capture the monkey. On Oct. 11 the city announced that the award would go to Yoneyama.

Full story here.

Locals Claim Authorities Killed 'Wrong Monkey' In Baby Attack

Residents living in nearby housing estates in Seremban, where a monkey had killed a four-day-old baby on Wednesday, claim that the authorities shot the wrong macaque.

They believe the real culprit is still at large in the forested areas.

Retired government servant Mohinder Singh, 74, said: 'The monkey killed by the officers... was much smaller. Alpha males are bigger and stronger and have even attacked and killed mongrels.'

Last year, he added, a group of monkeys almost attacked a five-year-old girl who was playing outside her house.

Another resident, P. Vellai, 56, said the dominant monkey was not afraid of women. 'The alpha male is huge. The one shot by the officers does not fit the description,' she said.

But the state's Wildlife and National Parks Department said it has cleared all macaques from the area. Its director, Mr Ishak Muhammad, said his officers had combed the area thoroughly.

Full story here.

Stolen Monkeys, One Found Dead, Another At Large From Alma Park Zoo

Keepers at Brisbane’s Alma Park Zoo are still searching for a missing, highly-endangered female Tamarin monkey after her partner was found dead yesterday in a nearby housing estate.

The pair of Cotton-top Tamarin monkeys, named Tonto and Conchetta, were taken from their zoo enclosure on Saturday night.

The eight-year-old male monkey, Tonto, was found dead yesterday afternoon by residents in nearby Surround Street, Dakabin.

‘We don’t know whether the people who broke in actually captured the female or whether they both managed to escape,’’ Alma Park Zoo manager Garry Connell said.

He said Conchetta, who is pregnant with twins, was unlikely to survive another 24 hours in the wild, if she had managed to escape.

‘‘She hasn’t got much going for her in these wet and cold conditions,’’ he said.

Mr Connell said he hoped the small tropical monkey had found shelter high in a tree within the zoo grounds.

Keepers kept her enclosure open overnight in the hope she would be enticed back by the warm lights and food.

Mr Connell said zoo employees were devastated at the news.

‘‘I even have cafe staff, who do not have anything to do with the animals, that have gone home in tears,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s quite emotional.’’

Mr Connell said there was no indication what had motivated the thieves.

Full story here.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Monkey Bites Baby To Death In Malaysia

A four-day old baby girl was "abducted" by a monkey that later bit the innocent to death here in the state of Negeri Sembilan in the southern part of west coast of Peninsula Malaysia.

The rare accident happened at around 1 p.m. Wednesday.

According to the baby's family members, the baby was abandoned by the monkey outside the house, where they found scratches and wounds on her head, neck and face.

Although she was rushed to a hospital, she succumbed to her injuries after emergency treatment was given to her.

The baby is the first child of a couple who just got married a year ago.

What saddened the parents more was that they still had not even named the baby.

The baby's grandmother told reporters here on Wednesday that when the incident took place, she was working in the kitchen, while her daughter-in-law was bathing the baby.

"When my daughter-in-law placed the baby in the living room after bathing her, she went into the bathroom again to get something.

"Just for that short while, she found the baby missing when she returned to the living room. We were all anxious when blood stains were spotted on the floor," said the grandmother in grief.

She added that the baby was later found outside the house with wounds all over her body.

The baby's mother said they noticed that a fierce monkey used to appear in the housing area in the recent two months after they had lived there for about 20 years.

While they used to prevent the monkey from entering the house, she said it still found the opportunity to sneak into the property following their negligence.

According to the family neighbors, the female monkey kept in the baby's house could have "aroused" the male monkey to "trespass " into the house and "kidnap" the baby.

Full story here.

Charlie The Smoking Chimp Dies At South Africa Zoo

Charlie the Smoking Chimp
A chimpanzee once hooked on smoking by visitors offering it cigarettes has died at a South African zoo at the relatively advanced age of 52, officials said on Wednesday.

"He appears to have died of old age," said municipal spokesman Qondile Khedama. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death.

"Charlie the smoking chimp" used to put two fingers to his mouth to mimic smoking and reach out with his other hand to bum cigarette butts from visitors at Bloemfontein Zoo. But when videos of him puffing away circulated globally a few years ago, zoo officials moved to cut off the supply of smokes.

The nickname stuck even though the cigarette habit faded.

Full story here.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Iowa Ape Featured On Oprah Show

He has had countless articles written about him and has even been the subject of a book.

But now Kanzi the ‘talking’ ape has reached the pinnacle of his packed showbiz career – he has been the subject of a feature on Oprah Winfrey’s talkshow.

A 29-year-old bonobo, Kanzi is able to understand and communicate with humans and is believed to understand around 450 words – 30 to 40 of which he uses on a daily basis.

Kanzi has been a celebrity ape since the late 1980s when his astonishing ability to communicate was first discovered.

He lives at the Great Ape Trust in Iowa where expert Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh has been teaching him to ‘speak’ by pointing at symbols on a computer.

He speaks by pressing a symbol on the computer which then repeats the word out loud. Dr Savage-Rumbaugh says that he is even able to put together two-word sentences and shows remarkable invention when creating new phrases.

Full story here.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Alvila, First Gorilla Born At San Diego Zoo, Dies At Age 45

Alvila, the first gorilla born at the San Diego Zoo and a favorite of zoo visitors for decades, died Thursday morning after several years of declining health.

The offspring of Albert and Vila, two gorillas brought to the zoo from Africa, Alvila was born June 3, 1965, a birth that gained national headlines.

As she declined in recent days, older gorillas gathered nearby, bringing food to her, seemingly to offer her comfort. She had suffered a series of old-age maladies, including severe arthritis in her knees since 1989 and had undergone back surgery in 2002.

The other gorillas at the zoo were allowed to see her one last time Thursday morning after her death, zoo officials said.

Alvila had four offspring and among the zoo's gorillas assumed a maternal role. She adopted a baby gorilla, Imani , in the mid-1990s that had been abandoned by its mother. She seemed to enjoy watching younger gorillas engaging in rough-and-tumble play.

Full story here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gorilla Born At Columbus Zoo

A baby gorilla was born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Wednesday, September 29 at approximately 2:00 p.m. The baby, whose sex is currently unknown, is being cared for by mother “Cassie” under the watchful eyes of father “Annaka” and two other members of their group.

This is the first offspring for Cassie who was born at the Columbus Zoo in 1993 and the third for Annaka who was born at the Philadelphia Zoo in 1985 and came to the Columbus Zoo in 1993. It is the thirtieth gorilla to be born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

As part of the Zoo’s normal protocol in anticipation of the birth of a great ape, Cassie was under 24-hour observation prior to the birth. Observations will continue indefinitely during this critical time period in order to monitor the overall health of both the mother and baby including care and feeding of the infant. During this time the group will not be able to be seen by Zoo visitors.

Full story here.

Monkeys Can Recognize Themselves In Mirrors

Monkeys may possess cognitive abilities once thought unique to humans, raising questions about the nature of animal awareness and our ability to measure it.

In the lab of University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Luis Populin, five rhesus macaques seem to recognize their own reflections in a mirror. Monkeys weren’t supposed to do this.

“We thought these subjects didn’t have this ability. The indications are that if you fail the mark test, you’re not self-aware. This opens up a whole field of possibilities,” Populin said.

Populin doesn’t usually study monkey self-awareness. The macaques described in this study, published Sept. 29 in Public Library of Science One, were originally part of his work on attention deficit disorder. But during that experiment, study co-author Abigail Rajala noticed the monkeys using mirrors to study themselves.

Full story here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Trained 'Monkey Police' Used At Delhi Games

Delhi's security preparations for the Commonwealth Games include a squad of trained langur monkeys to thwart common monkeys who threaten to disrupt the international event by running rampant through public venues.

Reuters reports that the New Delhi Municipal Council has deployed 38 trained langurs to scare away the lesser primates.

The smaller stray monkeys, which are considered by some Indians to be sacred and cannot be killed, roam freely through buildings, creating a public nuisance, the BBC reports.

In 2007, the deputy mayor of New Delhi was killed when he fell from his balcony during an attack by wild monkeys, while 25 other people were wounded when a monkey went on a rampage in the city, the Associated Press notes.

The larger black-faced langurs with gray fur are controlled by trainers who keep them on a long leash.

One langur guards the headquarters of the games organizing committee, while others keep an eye on the major stadiums during the events.

Full story here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Deadly Malaria Came To Humans From Gorillas, Not Chimps

A US-led study of malaria parasites in wild apes in Africa suggests that the parasite that causes the most deadly form of the disease in humans, Plasmodium falciparum, did not come from chimpanzees as first thought but from gorillas.

You can read how lead investigator Dr Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the US, and colleagues from the US, the Republic of Congo, the Republic of Cameroon, France, and the UK, arrived at this conclusion in a paper published online in the journal Nature on 23 September.

Of the five species of human malaria-causing parasites carried by mosquitoes, P. falciparum is the most prevalent and the most deadly; it causes hundreds of millions of cases of malaria and more than one million deaths every year. However, its evolutionary roots are a much debated topic.

Until this study, it was thought that P. falciparum's closest relative was P. reichenowi, which infects chimpanzees, but this is based on small studies that only included a few apes, and even fewer in the wild.

For their study, Hahn and colleagues analysed the DNA of thousands of samples of droppings from wild-living African apes and discovered that the Plasmodium parasites most closely related to the human one are to be found in the western gorillas rather than chimpanzees or bonobos.

Their findings also suggest that all existing strains of the human form evolved from a single jump from one species to another.

Full story here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Zoo Builds Barrier For Stone-Throwing Chimps

With officials long worried that a serious injury, or even death, is just waiting to happen, a multimillion-shekel barrier is under construction in the capital to separate loud, unruly crowds from frequent rock-throwers.

Sound like another security hot spot? Try the chimpanzee exhibit at the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, popularly known as the Biblical Zoo.

“It’s kind of embarrassing to be stoned by a chimp,” said zoo director Shai Doron.

“Chimps know how to throw forehand, but can’t throw overhand, like a baseball. So usually the rocks they throw have a big arc and people have time to escape.”

“The chimps throw rocks every time they’re upset when there are a lot of people,” explained Noa Danen, the head of the primate section at the zoo. “People thought it was funny, until they got a rock in the head.”

Instead of leaving the area when the primates are upset, news of chimpanzees throwing rocks usually draws even larger crowds, said Danen.

“And monkeys throw really well,” she noted.

After frequent incidents of irate chimps tossing rocks at the public, the zoo installed a net across the chimpanzee exhibit 10 years ago. While it took care of the danger of injury, it made the chimps hard to see and even harder to photograph.

A new, reinforced glass barrier is part of a NIS 2 million general overhaul of the chimpanzee exhibit, which will include more room for the chimpanzees to frolic. The plan includes filling in the moat to allow the residents to come right up to the glass and interact with their fellow primates “nose to nose,” Doron said. The glass will be specially treated so as not to shatter on impact from stones or other projectiles.

The zoo will also cover the exhibit with a deep layer of fresh soil, not the rocky Jerusalem soil, in the hopes of halting the flow of weapons into the chimps’ hands.

Full story here.

Jimmy The Painting Chimp Draws Hordes To Rio Zoo

Jimmy the painting chimp
A retired circus chimpanzee is the Cezanne of simians, drawing crowds to a Brazilian zoo to watch him paint. The 26-year-old chimp called Jimmy has been producing surprisingly lovely paintings each day for three weeks at the Niteroi Zoo.

Trainer Roched Seba said Monday Jimmy doesn't like the toys and other diversions that other chimps enjoy. So three weeks ago, Seba introduced him to painting after reading about animals in zoos elsewhere that enjoyed a little canvas time.

Temperamental as great artists can be, Jimmy at times declines to paint if his cage is surrounded by too many gawkers.

But for at least 30 minutes a day, he carefully dips his brush into plastic paint containers and uses broad, bold strokes to create his art.

Full story here.