Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Orangutans Get In Fight At Milwaukee Zoo, 3-Year Old Orangutan Injured

orangutan fightOne of the Milwaukee County Zoo's most popular animals is recovering after a brief altercation with another animal on Sunday.

Zookeepers said Mahal, a 3-year-old orangutan, got caught in the middle of a fight between two adult orangutans.

Employees said the altercation began when MJ, a female, picked a fight with Tommy, an adult male.

They said MJ ran away and Tommy misplaced his aggression toward Mahal. Zookeepers were able to separate the animals before either of them was seriously hurt.

"Unfortunately, Mahal suffered a few minor injuries during the process. Keepers were very quick to respond. He's doing remarkably well today, considering what happened yesterday," said Trish Khan, area supervisor of the Primates and Apes Department at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Full story here.

Monkey Again Bites Owner In Chesapeake

monkey biteA Chesapeake man has been bitten by his monkey for the second time in two weeks.

Animal Control, police, and paramedics were called to the home of 60-year-old Joseph "Babe" Hamric about 10:00 p.m. Monday, where they found Hamric injured.

Hamric was taken to the hospital and treated for bites to his leg, according to police.

Police say the monkey was put back in his cage at Hamric's home Monday night, and Animal Control will follow up on the incident Tuesday.

Hamric's Capuchin monkey is a registered service animal who bit him on both hands March 17. Hamric said that incident happened because he had stepped on the monkey's tail.

Full story here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Baboons Gobble Grapes In South African Wine Region

baboons eating grapesBaboons, it seems, prefer pinot noir. They also like a nice chardonnay.

Largely undeterred by electric fences, hundreds of wild baboons in South Africa's prized wine country are finding the vineyards of ripe, succulent grapes to be an "absolute bonanza," said Justin O'Riain of the University of Cape Town.

Winemakers have resorted to using noisemakers and rubber snakes to try to drive the baboons off during harvest season.

"The poor baboons are driven to distraction," said O'Riain, who works in the university's Baboon Research Unit.

"As far as baboons are concerned, the combination of starch and sugar is very attractive — and that's your basic grape," he said.

Growers say the picky primates are partial to sweet pinot noir grapes, adding to the winemakers' woe: Pinot noir sells for more than the average merlot or cabernet sauvignon.

"They choose the nicest bunches, and you will see the ones they leave on the ground. If you taste them, they are sour," said Francois van Vuuren, farm manager at La Terra de Luc vineyards, 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Cape Town. "They eat the sweetest ones and leave the rest."

Baboons have raided South Africa's vineyards in the past, but farmers say this year is worse than previous ones because the primates have lost their usual foraging areas due to wildfires and ongoing expansion of grape-growing areas.

Full story here.

Report Shows Africa's Gorillas Face Bleak Future

gorillaIllegal logging, mining and poaching for bushmeat are pushing gorillas and other great apes in Africa's Congo basin ever closer to extinction, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Earlier estimates that the natural habitat of gorillas could shrink by 90 percent within two decades now seem overly optimistic, said the report, compiled jointly by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and international police organisation Interpol.

"With the current accelerated rate of poaching for bushmeat and habitat loss, the gorilla of the Greater Congo Basin may now disappear from most of their present range within 10 to 15 years," said UNEP's Christian Nellemann.

Outbreaks of Ebola fever have dimmed survival prospects even further, said the report, launched at a meeting of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in the Qatari capital Doha.

Full story here.

Newborn Golden Lion Tamarin Passes At Zoo Atlanta

One of the twins born to 5-year-old golden lion tamarin Robin on March 18 died on March 22, 2010. While newborns of any species are fragile, golden lion tamarins are known to carry an increased risk of infant mortality in offspring born to individuals without previous parenting experience. Robin and her mate, 4-year-old Theo, were both the youngest offspring in their families, and thus did not have the opportunity to participate in infant caretaking, which in their species is a behavior learned through practice and observation. Zoo staff believe this inexperience led to the pair’s inability to adequately care for two offspring.

Robin and Theo’s remaining infant appears to be thriving, according to the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams, who continue to monitor the family closely.

Full story here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Petersburg's Mystery Monkey Swings Into Pool Cage, Falls In Pool, Escapes

petersburg monkeyRenée Barth spotted what she thought was a large dog walk by the sliding glass doors in her back yard around noon Sunday.

But when the creature sidled through an open screen door and swung onto a tree in the pool enclosure, she realized she was staring at a monkey.

"It was crazy," said Barth, 40, who lives in the Tropical Shores neighborhood in southeastern St. Petersburg. "It was exciting."

Barth said the monkey "freaked out" a bit before he found his way out of the enclosure, banging the screen and even falling into the pool. Long after the monkey was gone, Barth checked other parts of her property. Some grapefruits were missing.

Full story here.

Illinois House Approves Pet Monkey Ban

If you ever wanted to own a pet monkey, you might want to act fast. Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation that would ban state residents from keeping primates as pets.

The proposal approved by the Illinois House on Friday would make it illegal to "keep, harbor, care for, act as custodian of or maintain" any primate – such as a monkey, lemur, chimpanzee, orangutan or gorilla. The measure would exempt zoos, circuses, science labs, universities, veterinary hospitals and animal refuges.

Already own pet monkey? The ban would not apply to you if you bought the monkey by 2011 and registered it with your local animal control agency.

Lawmakers also added an exemption for people who are disabled, so that they could keep a single capuchin monkey to assist them in daily tasks.

The House approved the ban without debate Friday, by a 105-2 vote. The measure now goes to the State Senate for consideration.

Full story here.

Twin Golden Lion Tamarins Born At Zoo Atlanta

golden lion tamarins bornRobin, a 4-year-old golden lion tamarin at Zoo Atlanta, gave birth to twins on March 18, 2010. The infants, each estimated to weigh about 2 ounces, are the first offspring for Robin and her mate, 4-year-old male Theo. Members and guests can look forward to seeing Robin and her new arrivals early next week.

Named for the vivid orange manes framing their faces, golden lion tamarins are similar in size to squirrels. The primarily arboreal primates live in family groups composed of a breeding pair and their offspring. Theo (pronounced tay-oh) is expected to take an active part in caring for the new arrivals, as adult males play key roles in rearing the young.

Robin’s delivery is an exciting beginning to Zoo Atlanta’s annual golden lion tamarin free-ranging season, which is tentatively scheduled to begin in late April. Zoo Atlanta is one of only two zoos in the U.S. currently offering a free-ranging program, allowing the monkeys to take to the trees outside their indoor habitat. The tamarins wear radio collars to allow trackers to monitor their location.

Full story here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Edmonton Valley Zoo Welcomes New Monkey

baby monkeyThe Edmonton Valley Zoo has welcomed a new addition, a baby squirrel monkey. The baby was born February 1st.

The gender of the baby is still unknown, as zoo staff must wait until it gets independant enough to leave its mother before it can be examined. In the meantime the baby will ride on the back of its mother's and the other female squirrel monkies at the zoo, who will act as the baby's aunts.

“We prefer to let mom and baby stay together as they would in the wild,” Head zookeeper Sandy Helliker said.

“We’re keeping an eye on them both, and baby looks strong and healthy and is growing well.”

Full story here.

Chesapeake Man Bitten In Attack By Service Monkey

monkey attackA 60-year-old Chesapeake man made an unscheduled trip to the hospital after he was attacked by his pet monkey.

The man told police he accidentally stepped on his Capuchin monkey's tail, which the monkey didn't appreciate. It bit the man's hands before he was able to get the monkey back in its cage, WAVY reported.

With the monkey secured, its owner went to a neighbor for help. The neighbor called an ambulance and the man was transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The man has owned the monkey, a certified service animal, for several years and has a permit for it.

Full story here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Research Monkey Deaths Prompt Calls For Crackdown

research  monkeysWorkers at a Nevada research lab were checking on a primate room when they came across a ghastly sight: Thirty dead monkeys were essentially cooked alive after someone left the heater on. Two others were near death and had to be euthanized.

At a lab run by the same company, a monkey died last year after it was sent through a washer while still in its cage. The temperatures were so scalding the monkey never had a chance.

The two cases have led to calls for greater oversight and enforcement of the animal research industry after an alarmingly high number of deaths in recent years.

Critics say fines for violations at animal research labs are so puny that they do nothing to deter violations. The lab where the monkeys died in Nevada was fined a mere $14,000 for the two incidents, according to records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The penalties have given them virtually no motivation whatsoever to cease violating the law," said Michael Budkie, the executive director of the Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now. "If they are literally killing animals through negligence, something is wrong with the system."

The group asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last month for an independent investigation into animal deaths at research labs.

Agriculture Department records show there were 97 negligent animal deaths at research facilities nationwide over the last two years, a figure that does not include lab mice and rats.

One of the biggest violators was Charles River Laboratories, where the 33 monkeys died at facilities in Reno in 2008 and Sparks in 2009.

Full story here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Study Shows Female Monkeys Make The Best Teachers

monkeys teachersWhen it comes to finding a role model, vervet monkeys prefer the women in their lives. Researchers have found that the silver-furred primates imitate a useful new skill, such as opening a box with a treat inside, only when the monkey demonstrating it is female.

Vervet monkeys live in territorial groups of 10 to 50 individuals, which include adult males and females, juveniles, and infants. Females stay in their native group for life, whereas males join other groups when they become sexually mature, at about 4 years old. Typically, an alpha male dominates the group, although among females in the same group there is also a dominant individual. Males ascend the ranks by fighting, whereas females pass their status down to their oldest daughter.

Scientists have long wondered whether groups like these harbor some sort of culture. That is, can individuals pass down certain behaviors from generation to generation?

Erica van de Waal had a chance to probe this question at the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve in South Africa. A doctoral student at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, she noticed that groups of vervet monkeys had strikingly different ways of resolving arguments. One group would use a scapegoat, whereas in another group the monkeys would console the losing party to keep the peace. She wondered whether ecological differences were responsible, or whether a particular strategy had spread among individuals of one group.

Full story here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Yellow Fever Strikes Monkey Populations In South America

A group of Argentine scientists, including health experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society, have announced that yellow fever is the culprit in a 2007-2008 die-off of howler monkeys in northeastern Argentina, a finding that underscores the importance of paying attention to the health of wildlife and how the health of people and wild nature are so closely linked.

The paper—appearing in a recent edition of the American Journal of Primatology—focuses on yellow fever outbreaks that were documented in several howler monkey populations of Misiones Province, Argentina. The epidemics, which caused the death of dozens of rare howler monkeys, signaled the need for a human vaccination program in the region to save lives.

"The outbreak has tragic conservation implications for the endangered brown howler monkey, one of the two species affected, which is highly threatened primarily by habitat destruction, hunting, and now disease," said Dr. Pablo Beldomenico. "The study also points out the importance of wildlife as a critically important indicator of health and disease processes which can help protect people too."

Full story here.

Endangered Monkey Dies At Chattanooga Zoo

tamarinChattanooga Zoo staff members announced Wednesday the death of Maya, the cotton-top tamarin born in May, a news release said.

The extremely endangered monkey’s birth in captivity was widely publicized last summer.

But after staff noticed that Maya seemed to lose her balance a few days ago, the veterinarian who first treated the monkey did blood work and X-rays to determine what was making her sick. The tests were inconclusive.

After taking her to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Veterinarian School, personnel discovered that Maya developed cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that lives in both plants and animals. The fungus often is difficult to diagnose until symptoms are too advanced to treat, officials said.

Full story here.

Another Chimp Born In Rwandan Forest

chimpAn endangered chimpanzee group that's at the heart of a Rwanda reforestation effort backed by Great Ape Trust in Des Moines has welcomed its second infant in a year, the trust reported Wednesday.

Gishwati Area Conservation Program field crews discovered the baby last week with mother Nyiramatwi.

"There is a reason we call Gishwati 'the Forest of Hope,' " said Benjamin Beck, project director. "It would have been easy to dismiss the significance of restoring this forest and saving this small population of chimpanzees, but fortunately a group of dedicated people and visionary leaders realized the potential of Gishwati and its critical importance to the Rwandan people."

The birth means 15 chimps are known to live in Gishwati. Scientists have been heartened to discover reproduction in the isolated group.

Full story here.

Gorilla Born In Disney's Animal Kingdom

gorilla disneyDisney's Animal Kingdom Park in Florida has a new attraction--a newborn western lowland gorilla, the third gorilla born at the theme park.

The gorilla, whose gender is still unknown, is doing well and has already become an integral member of the gorilla family group which includes first-time mother, Kashata, father Gino, and two other females, Benga and Hope, Walt Disney World said in a news release accompanying this photo.

"Kashata has been a model mother from the moment the baby was born," said Matt Hohne, animal operations director for Disney's Animal Programs. "She immediately knew how to properly hold the baby and her nursing skills have been exemplary."

Since Kashata has been holding the baby close to her body, animal keepers have yet to determine the baby's gender, Disney said. "Most gorilla mothers keep their offspring close for several months while the baby adjusts to the environment. In addition, gorilla babies typically nurse for approximately 12 months and may be weaned between the ages of four and five," Disney added.

Full story here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Study Shows Bonobos Opt To Share Their Food

bonoboOne of our closest primate relatives, the bonobo, has been shown to voluntarily share food, scientists report.

This sort of generous behaviour was previously thought by some to be an exclusively human trait.

But a team has carried out an experiment that revealed that bonobos were more likely to choose to share their food than opt to dine alone.

The research is published in the journal Current Biology.

Dr Brian Hare from Duke University, US, and Suzy Kwetuenda from Lola y Bonobo, a centre for orphaned bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo, gave a hungry bonobo access to a room with some food in it.

This room was adjacent to another two rooms, which the creature could easily see into. One of these rooms was empty while the other contained another bonobo.

The hungry primate could then choose to eat the food alone or unlock the door by removing a wooden peg and share his fare with the other bonobo.

Dr Hare wrote in Current Biology: "We found that the test subjects preferred to voluntarily open the recipient's door to allow them to share the highly desirable food that they could have easily eaten alone."

They now hope to uncover why the bonobos seem to prefer to share their food.

Full story here.

Chimpanzee At Knoxville Zoo Dies Unexpectedly

Saddened by the unexpected death of the pregnant chimpanzee Jackie, Knoxville Zoo keepers are working to help the park's remaining seven chimps adjust to the loss.

Jackie, 35, was a leader and often a mediator among residents of the park's natural habitat Chimp Ridge. Now "it will be a 'new normal,' " said Lisa New, zoo director of animal collections for mammals and birds.

Though a team of medical experts worked frantically to save her, Jackie died Thursday night from complications of pregnancy. Her baby was due in mid-March or early April. She died at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, about four hours after she'd been taken there from the zoo.

"We're very saddened by the loss," Zoo Executive Director Jim Vlna said. "We had no indications that there were any problems throughout the pregnancy, and we had hoped to celebrate the birth of a healthy baby, but unfortunately nature doesn't always give you the outcome you hope for.

"Right now our focus is on the well-being of the rest of the chimpanzee troupe and helping them cope with the loss."

Jackie's pregnancy had been normal until a few days ago when she showed possible signs of early labor. Zookeepers spent the nights of Feb. 28 and March 1 at Chimp Ridge to watch her. The zoo consulted with UT veterinarians and University of Tennessee Medical Center specialists in human high-risk pregnancies.

Jackie later showed no more signs of labor and seemed well physically, New said.

But on March 4 the ape was sick. Female ape Bo sat nearby, tending and grooming Jackie before her friend was taken to UT.

At the veterinary school, an ultrasound showed Jackie was carrying twins with a rare problem. A female fetus was dead and had shared a heart with an "acardic," incompletely developed twin. The medical team induced labor to try to save Jackie.

After the labor was over, Jackie's heart stopped. Medical personnel tried repeatedly to revive her with a defibrillator.

Full story here.

First Proof Gorillas Eat Monkeys?

gorilla meat eaterLike the vegetarian who can't resist the occasional burger, the otherwise herbivorous gorilla might succumb to cravings for its evolutionary cousins, a new study hints.

While some zoo specimens are known to eat meat, wild gorillas eat only plants and fruit, along with the odd insect—as far as scientists know (see video of wild gorillas feasting on figs).

But a recent study found DNA from monkeys and small forest antelopes called duikers in the feces of wild African mountain gorillas in Loango National Park in Gabon.

The discovery raises the possibility that gorillas might have a secret meat habit—scavenging or hunting discretely.

There may well be more mundane explanations for the surprising finding—explanations that'd have to be ruled out before gorillas could be reclassified as meat-eaters, said study co-author Grit Schubert, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Full story here.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Twice-Tranquilized Monkey Again Eludes Capture

monkey escapes captureEven after being hit twice with tranquilizer darts, the rhesus macaque that has been on the loose for months in the Tampa Bay area managed to escape again Wednesday afternoon.

The monkey was spotted about 2 p.m. near 54th Avenue South and 22nd Street South, said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Officials with the commission, police and wildlife rehabilitator Vernon Yates went to the scene. The monkey was in some trees when it was shot and hit by two tranquilizers.

It then jumped from tree to tree. It landed on a subdivision road and crossed it. It went back in a tree and ran into an open area behind a Walgreens and a church off 54th Avenue South and got away.

"The drugs just don't seem to affect him for whatever reason," said Yates. "We've increased the dosage every time that we've shot him. What we're really doing is turning him into a drug addict."

Authorities suspended the search at sundown and will resume it if someone spots the male monkey.

The monkey presents no threat to humans, said Yates. He has been tracking it for a more than a year since it was first spotted in Hudson. It also was sighted several times in Hillsborough County and northern Pinellas County.

Full story here.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Martian Gorillas Found By Nasa!

This amazing picture of the Martian landscape has got alien hunters excited about the possibility that it shows a silverback gorilla striking a pose on the Martian surface.

The image was taken by the Mars Spirit Rover in the Gusev crater, a crater over 100 miles in diameter that is thought to have once been a lake filled with liquid water.

It's one of several images taken by Spirit that appear to show a gorilla knuckle-walking across the surface of the Red Planet.

Online sites devoted to searching through pictures of Mars for signs of life have long pointed to the picture as an example of an 'anomaly' that suggests Martian life.

Full story here.

Report: 'Ida' Fossil Looks Like Lemur, Not Human Ancestor

ida fossilSo long "Ida"? A well-publicized 47-million-year-old primate fossil looks like an ancestor to lemurs, not people, concluded a paleontology team Tuesday.

In the Journal of Human Evolution report, a team led by evolutionary anthropologist Blythe Williams of Duke University in Durham, N.C., take on Darwinius massilae, touted in a May PLoS One study as an evolutionary "haplorhine" precursor to apes and humans. "Darwinius masillae represents the most complete fossil primate ever found, including both skeleton, soft body outline and contents of the digestive tract," concluded the study led by Jens Franzen of Switzerland's Naturhistorisches Museum Basel.

Dubbed "Ida", the fossil's report attracted controversy among scientists after its announcement at a news conference, as well as for the involvement of a History Channel documentary, The Link, which asked whether Ida was, "The most important fossil ever found?"

But in October, a Nature study concluded Ida didn't look all that different from fossil primates related to lemurs, not apes and people. And the new Journal of Human Evolution study responds point-by-point to the original paper's description of Ida's anatomy, to reach the same conclusion: Ida looks like a member of an extinct lemur family, not a pre-human one.

"This is just the correction process in science," says Chris Kirk of the University of Texas in Austin, an author on the new JHE paper. "One group makes extraordinary claims, and other researchers see whether the evidence supports them, or as in this case, where it doesn't."

"Darwinius is an exceptional fossil and there is no question it is haplorhine (human and ape primate family) as we published before," said paleontologist Philip Gingerich of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, an author on the the original Ida study. "That this has upset some colleagues so greatly is a measure of its impact in forcing a major new understanding of primate evolution."

Full story here.

Baby Bonobo Born At Columbus Zoo

bonoboA rare baby bonobo was born Monday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Zoo volunteers and staff were monitoring Susie, the mother bonobo, since Feb. 17, awaiting the baby's arrival, a zoo news release said.

This is the 11th bonobo born at the Columbus Zoo since the Zoo received its first bonobos in 1990 in conjunction with the Species Survival Plan for the endangered ape.

Full story here.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Gorillas Find Love With New Beau

gorilla loveThree female gorillas have found love again after the death of their beau left them longing for male affection.

The starry-eyed singletons appear to have fallen head over heels for their new exotic paramour - 20-stone Yeboah - who was brought over from La Boissiere Du Dore zoo in western France.

Staff at ZSL London Zoo said the 12-year-old blackback was an instant hit with the love-struck ladies - Zaire, 35, Effie, 17 and Mjukuu, 11.

And he has quickly filled the gap left by silverback Bobby.

It is hoped the trio, who have lacked male attention since December 2008, will breed with the German-born Yeboah who arrived on the scene in November.

''He's taken a particular shining to Mjukuu who seems to be his favourite at the moment,'' one member of staff said.

''But he's getting on well with the others as well - he's a bit of a flirt all round.''

Until now Yeboah has remained a blackback gorilla - a sexually mature male of up to 11 years of age - but he is expected to turn into a silverback as he learns to dominate his new group.

Full story here.