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.