Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gorilla At Riverbanks Zoo And Garden Dies

gorillaOfficials at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden say a 16-year-old male gorilla has passed away, but they have not yet determined a reason for the animal's death.

The body of 16-year-old Kimya, the youngest of three gorillas that came to Riverbanks in 2004, was found in a holding area early Monday morning.

"It's a sad day at Riverbanks because this was one of our major animals," Lindsay Burke, Communications Specialist for Riverbanks said.

The animal's body will be sent to the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy that will be conducted by exotic animal pathologists. Zoo officials say the ape showed no signs of illness or stress before its body was found.

Kimya was born at the Toledo Zoo in 1994, and was transferred to Riverbanks from the Philadelphia Zoo in 2004 with 25-year-old Chaka and 18-year-old Mike.

Full story here.

Study: Men's Hormones Match Those Of Either Bonobos Or Chimps

chimp bonobo studyIt may come as no surprise that men can at times behave like apes. In fact, they're driven by the same primitive urges.

When faced with an impending competition, men pump out hormones that match those of either peace-loving bonobos or aggressive chimps, researchers at Duke University report. Which hormones win has to do with the guy's personality.

Though most men's bodies prep for a scrimmage by producing cortisol, the stress hormone that runs through the blood of bonobos, status-driven fellows also generate the aggression hormone testosterone, making them more like chimps.

In the aftermath of the battle, however, humans' responses are in a category all their own. Men celebrate victory with an increase in testosterone and mourn defeat with a decrease in it. Neitherbonobos nor chimps show these after-effects.

The conclusions were drawn from a new study outlining differences in chimp and bonobo hormonal responses to conflict.

The research, conducted by scientists at Duke and Harvard universities, was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"It looks like before competition, human [males] are not very unusual," co-author Brian Hare of Duke said. "But after competition, they look unique."

Full story here.

Police Arrest 5 At Primate Center Protest

protest primateFive protesters were arrested Monday as animal rights activists demonstrated outside Oregon Health & Science University's National Primate Research Center.

Hillsboro police Lt. Michael Rouches said 20 to 40 people protested animal testing at the primate center, located at Northwest Edgeway Drive and Heritage Parkway.

Michael Budkie, the director of the group Stop Animal Exploitation Now, said demonstrators "risked their freedom" to interfere with animal testing at the primate research center.

"This facility wastes over $50 million a year in useless primate experimentation," Budkie said. "Recently, they have been cited by USDA for taking the lives of several primates."

Jim Newman, a spokesman for OHSU, said the facility received a surprise inspection from the USDA last week and that it received a "glowing report."

"We do a lot as a center to try and explain what we do, to talk to the public," he said. "We talk to rights groups all the time. It's frustrating because we think we're open, but there are groups that come in from out of town hat think that closing our facility is the best way to show their frustration."

Five people who blocked Edgeway Drive by lying in the street with their arms linked by plastic pipes were taken into custody on a charge of obstructing traffic.

Full story here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monkey Escapes When Owner Falls Down

monkey escapesA Plymouth man is appealing for help in finding his pet monkey which ran off after being startled on the Barbican.

Pete Powell says Bonnie, his marmoset monkey, needs a specialist diet and may suffer from the cold.

Mr Powell, who walks with the aid of sticks after having a stroke, was walking on the Barbican late on Monday night, with Bonnie on his shoulder as usual, when he fell over and Bonnie ran off.

Mr Powell, 53, said: “It’s important to find him because he’s 10 years old and needs a specialist diet. He’s an old man in animal terms.”

Bonnie is about the size of a ferret or a domestic rat, and was wearing a purple jacket with a chain on, which he may have taken off.

Mr Powell said: “I’m so used to having him on my shoulder. since my wife died he’s been an extra bit of company.

“I know it sounds silly to call him a companion but he was good company.

Full story here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Documentary Reunites La Toya Jackson With Bubbles In Florida Sanctuary

La Toya Jackson made an emotional visit to the Center for Great Apes near Wauchula to visit her late brother Michael Jackson's beloved pet chimpanzee Bubbles in late May.

She reunited with her brother's former pet for a new Animal Planet documentary which airs tonight at 9 p.m. and again at 11 p.m.

As the one-year anniversary of the death of legendary pop star Michael Jackson approaches, the documentary, "Michael Jackson and Bubbles: The Untold Story" tells the story of the late singer's relationship with his pet chimp and includes interviews with La Toya Jackson and her 20-year reunion with Bubbles.

She told "Animal Planet" she remembered him as a young chimp who sat at the family table and ate with them.

Bubbles' home since 2005 is a sanctuary in a remote area of Central Florida where there are hundreds of trees, 30-foot tall dunes and nearly a half a mile of elevated tunnels.

Bubbles was born in 1983 in a biomedical laboratory and lived with Michael Jackson from 1986 to 1992. During those years he toured with Michael to Japan, appeared in music videos and learned to moonwalk.

Full story here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chimps Kill Neighbors To Gain New Territory

chimp attackGangs of chimpanzees carry out violent attacks on individuals from rival groups in order to secure more resources or mates, a 10-year study in Uganda has found.

During that time scientists recorded 18 attacks and found signs of three others carried out by a large, male-dominated community of chimpanzees at Ngogo in Kibale National Park.

In summer last year, the aggressor chimpanzees finally began to occupy the area where two-thirds of their attacks had occurred, expanding their territory by more than a fifth.

According to the scientists, led by John Mitani, a primate behavioural ecologist at the University of Michigan, the chimps then travelled, socialised and ate in the new territory.

"When they started to move into this area, it didn't take much time to realise that they had killed a lot of other chimpanzees there," said Mitani. "Our observations help to resolve long-standing questions about the function of lethal intergroup aggression in chimpanzees."

Full story here.

Study: Human Bite Stronger Than Ape's

human biteThe robust jaws and formidable teeth of some of our ancestors and ape cousins may suggest that humans are wimps when it comes to producing a powerful bite: but a new study has found the opposite is true, with major implications for our understanding of diet in ancestral humans.

The surprise findings suggest that early modern humans did not necessarily need to use tools and cooking to process high-nutrient hard foods, such as nuts - and perhaps less tough foods such as meat - but may have lost an ability to eat very tough items, such as tubers or leaves.

In the first comparison of its kind, Australian researchers have found that the lightly built human skull has a far more efficient bite than those of the chimp, gorilla and orang-utan, and of two prehistoric members of our family, Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus boisei.

They found that modern humans can achieve relatively high bite forces using less-powerful jaw muscles. In short, the human skull does not have to be as robust because, for any given bite force, the sum of forces acting on the human skull is much less.

Full story here.

Rare Pied Tamarin Monkey Twins Born At Colchester Zoo

pied tamarinTwo endangered pied tamarin monkeys have been born at Colchester Zoo.

The twins, who have yet to be sexed or named, were born to parents Will and Grace who were paired last November as part of a rare breeding programme.

It is thought the population of the pied tamarin in the wild has fallen by half over the last 18 years.

"They're a very rare primate indeed, so we're absolutely thrilled to be successful with them so quickly," said zoological director Anthony Tropeano.

Full story here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Monkey On Menus In France

bushmeatThe traders sell an array of bush meat: monkey carcasses, smoked anteater, even preserved porcupine.

But it isn't a jungle market in Africa - it's the heart of Paris, where a new study has found more than five tonnes of bush meat slips through the city's main airport each week.

Researchers suspect similar amounts are arriving in other European cities in an illegal trade raising concerns about diseases ranging from monkeypox to Ebola, and is another twist in the struggle to integrate a growing African immigrant population.

The research, the first time experts have documented how much bush meat is smuggled into any European city, was published yesterday in the journal Conservation Letters.

''Anecdotally we know it does happen … but it is quite surprising the volumes that are coming through,'' said Marcus Rowcliffe, a research fellow of the Zoological Society of London and one of the study's authors.

In Chateau Rouge, in central Paris, Toukine, an African woman in her 50s, receives deliveries of crocodile and other bush meat each weekend at her shop.

''Everyone knows bush meat is sold in the area and they even know where to buy it,'' said Hassan Kaouti, a local butcher. ''But they won't say it's illegal.''

For the study, experts checked 29 Air France flights from Africa that landed at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport over 17 days in 2008. Of 134 people searched, nine had bush meat and 83 had livestock or fish.

Full story here.

Monkey Phobic Woman Attacked By Macaques

attack victim monkeyThe horrific attack happened on Monkey Island near to the popular holiday island of Phuket in southern Thailand.

"I thought I was heading for safety under this rock in the shade, only to cool down," Mrs Darwell, from Peterborough, said.

"I laid the towel down and there were no monkeys in sight.

"The next thing I noticed, this monkey walked up next to me and I thought, oh dear, and I began to stand up to move away.

"Then, the monkey took my wrist and pounced on my right arm, sinking his teeth in and hung off it.

"He wouldn't let go; he was locked on. I was absolutely petrified."

Thai fishermen ran to the rescue after spotting more monkeys joining the assault and began prying them off.

Mrs Darwell said she had agreed to go on the Siam Sea Canoe tour with a friend to confront her fear of monkeys.

Her phobia had been triggered by her father bringing up a chimpanzee which she described as "positively evil".

She said: "I thought, this is it, I'm going to die, I'm going to be savaged by these monkeys - then I went into shock."

Mrs Darwell added: "I wouldn't have got off that bloody boat if the tour guide would have said at all that there was any danger, any risk, even the slightest risk."

Tour leader Mr Yongyut Buasod said: "We can't control the monkeys if they decide to bite someone, that's why we always warn the tourists.

Full story here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Study: Orangutans Use At Least 40 Different Gestures To Communicate

orangutan gesturesGreat ape gestures have intentional meaning and are made with the expectation of specific behavioral responses, according to Erica Cartmill and Richard Byrne from the University of St. Andrews in the UK. The study of meaning in animal communication takes a significant step forward with the authors' new systematic approach to assessing intentional meaning in the gestural communication of non-humans, applied here to a group of orangutan gestures. Their work is published in Springer's journal Animal Cognition.

The first section of this paper sets out their proposed method (goal-outcome matching) which takes into account the apparent aim of the gesturing individual as well as the reaction of the recipient that apparently satisfies the signaller. Where the two match consistently, across examples of a particular gesture, an intentional meaning is identified for that gesture.

The authors then applied this approach to a sample of orangutan gestures to identify gestures that are used predictably to induce specific reactions and to begin a lexicon of orangutan gestures and their intentional meanings.

The researchers observed 28 orangutans in three European zoos - Twycross Zoo in the UK, Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey - for nine months. They identified 64 gesture types, 40 used frequently enough to be analyzed for meaning. These 40 gestures were used predictably to achieve one of six social goals: to initiate an interaction (contact, grooming or play), request objects, share objects, instigate joint movement (co-locomotion), cause a partner to move back, or stop an action.

The researchers then tested their analysis by examining what the gesturing ape did when the response to its gesture did not match the gesture's meaning, as deduced by the goal-outcome matching method. They found that the apes were more persistent with their gestures when their partner did not respond in the intended way.

Full story here.

Buffalo Zoo Welcomes New Babies

saki monkey babyThere’s a baby boom taking place at the Buffalo Zoo, as a white-faced saki, Japanese macaque and two snow leopard cubs have joined the collection!

A baby saki monkey was born on April 28, 2010 to mother, Katrina, and father, Maracaibo. The birth of this white-faced saki is a first for the Buffalo Zoo!

Katrina is taking good care of her newborn. Keepers do not wish to disrupt bonding between Katrina and her baby, so they have not separated them to determine the baby’s gender.

The baby Japanese macaque, who keepers have named Niko, was born on June 1, 2010 to mother, Debbi, and father, Eric. Keepers believe that the baby is a male, but as with the saki monkey, the keepers do not wish to separate Debbi from her baby to determine the gender. Niko is growing fast and discovering new things each day.

The newborn is Debbi and Eric’s third offspring. Their two previous offspring, Ohno and Yuki, remain in the troop as well.

Full story here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Zoo Atlanta Exhibit Closed After Gorilla Charges Glass

glass cracked gorillaZoo Atlanta officials said they closed the gorilla exhibit after a 20-year-old male silver back gorilla charged a glass barrier resulting in cracks in the panel.

Officials said the incident happened Sunday at the Willie B. Conservation Center. Zoo workers said the gorilla, Taz, most likely charged the glass because he had undergone a routine medical exam on Saturday and was concerned about the presence of veterinarians in the viewing area.

“Gorillas often associate their veterinarians as the ones giving vaccinations and can react nervously – much like many people do with a visit to the doctor or dentist,” said Dr. Hayley Murphy, Director of Veterinary Services.

Taz was not injured in the incident, zoo officials said.

Zoo officials said the animal management and veterinary teams immediately initiated safety procedures by evacuating the Willie B. Conservation Center and bringing the gorilla group (including Taz) into their overnight holding area.

“World-class animal care and the safety of our guests and staff are of the utmost importance at Zoo Atlanta,” said Raymond King, Zoo Atlanta President and CEO. “We have many drills to prepare zoo staff for various incidents and that preparation allowed us to safely return Taz to his secure holding area with no injuries to either the public or to the animal.”

The gorilla exhibit is designed with a moat barrier with electric wire between the yard and the public viewing areas. The Willie B. Conservation Center where the incident occurred has several glass viewing panels that allow guests an unobstructed view. Zoo officials said neither guests or staff was ever in any danger.

Full story here.

Study Shows Monkeys Like Watching Television

monkey tvA three-year-old male rhesus macaque thoroughly enjoyed a video of a circus elephant, giraffe and tiger performing, according to scientists from 1 University's Primate Research Institute, who monitored the monkey's brain during the experiment.

Scientist used a technique called near-infrared spectroscopy to examine various aspects of the blood flow to the brain of the monkey while it was watching the television images.

The study found that when the monkey was witnessing the acrobatic performances of circus animals on a television screen, the frontal lobe area of its brain became vigorously active.

The activity in such an area was significant in reflecting the monkey's pleasure, as the human equivalent is a neurological area associated with triggering delight in a baby when it sees the smile of its mother.

Full story here.

Gorilla's Near-Escape From NC Zoo Caught On Camera

Cell phone video posted to YouTube Sunday showed a female gorilla at the North Carolina Zoo using a branch to reach top of the exhibit over the weekend.

Zoo officials say a limb, likely loosened by Saturday storms, fell into the gorilla exhibit Sunday afternoon. The limb formed a makeshift ladder which a young female climbed to reach the top of the wall. The gorilla never left the exhibit.

Tom Gillespie with the NC Zoo says that keepers routinely check the exhibit each morning to ensure against such incidents. He says the limb likely fell into the exhibit after the check were conducted.

The lowland gorilla exhibit was closed on Monday and possibly Tuesday. Horticulturists are being brought in to check overhanging trees for more loose limbs.

Zoo visitor Erica Bullins posted the video below to YouTube. In the description, she says "looking back, probably should've just got out of there, but was completely caught up in the moment."

She said she ended up calling 911 because she did not have a direct number to anyone at the zoo.

Full story here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pioneering Surgery Saves Chimpanzee's Life

chimp surgeryIn a world first, surgeons at Wellington Zoo have cured an infection that spread through a chimp's inner ear and part of her skull, and would have eventually killed her.

Cara, a 28-year-old chimpanzee, has suffered from a bacterial ear infection for five or six years.

Zoo staff tried to treat it with antibiotics but it became so resistant that the medication had no effect.

The infection inflamed her ear from the outside into the middle ear, and was beginning to eat at part of her skull. If left untreated, it would eventually have spread to her brain and killed her.

Wellington ear, nose and throat surgeon Rebecca Garland, who works for Capital and Coast District Health Board, specialises in ear surgery - but most of her patients are human.

She donated her time and equipment, as did vet staff, to help with Cara's surgery. The health board also provided the use of expensive equipment, including a microscope used in the operation.

The most expensive part of the operation was a 3D model of Cara's skull used to prepare for the real surgery, which cost about $900.

Dr Garland said that, as far as research showed, the surgery had never before been performed on a chimpanzee.

Full story here.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

San Francisco Zoo Helps Save Lab Monkeys From Euthanasia

lab monkeysTwenty monkeys who spent their lives undergoing behavioral testing at Stanford University are about to learn what normal monkey life is at the San Francisco Zoo.

The squirrel monkeys are among a group of 59 that needed homes after Stanford lost grant money and asked the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which accredits zoos for their commitment to wildlife, to help find them homes.

Now, the 3- to 5-pound monkeys are nearing the end of their mandatory quarantine before they can join the other animals at the zoo.

"They were in a research facility where they do not allow anything that can’t be sterilized and didn’t have any natural elements," -primates curator Corinne MacDonald said. "We’re slowly introducing them to natural things. They’re loving it."

The entire group has been spread out among at least six other zoos.

Full story here.

Monkey Controlled Robot Reaches New Level Of Complexity

monkey brain robotIn a remarkable demonstration of brain-machine interface technology, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have taught a monkey to use just its thoughts to control an advanced robotic arm and perform elaborate maneuvers with it.

It's not the first time a monkey with sensors implanted in its brains has controlled machines with its mind. But this seven-degrees-of-freedom robot arm is probably the most complex system a monkey has ever mastered with its thoughts alone.

Researchers have long been working to put the brain in direct communication with machines. The hope is one day brain-machine interfaces will allow paralyzed people to operate advanced prosthetics in a natural way. Recent demonstrations have seen animals and humans controlling ever more complex devices.

But the experiments at the University of Pittsburgh, led by Dr. Andrew Schwartz, a professor of neurobiology, appear to involve an unprecedented degree of complexity in terms of the robotic arm, the level of control, and the difficulty of the manipulations demonstrated.

Full story here.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Man Reports Loose Monkey In Winchester, New Hampshire

Police are investigating a report of a loose monkey near the race track in Winchester.

Police Chief Gary Philips said a man called into police saying he saw a monkey on Keene Road.

Police and animal control went out to the area, but could find no sign of the monkey.

Philips said to his knowledge, no one in town keeps a monkey as a pet.

As for a physical description of the monkey, the chief said "Well, he wasn't wearing a hat and carrying a tin cup or anything like that.. The man just said he saw a monkey."

Philips said police will continue to keep an eye out for the animal, but so far the reports are unsubstantiated.

Full story here.