Thursday, October 27, 2011

'Junk DNA' Makes Us Different From Chimps

For years, scientists believed the vast phenotypic differences between humans and chimpanzees would be easily explained – the two species must have significantly different genetic makeups. However, when their genomes were later sequenced, researchers were surprised to learn that the DNA sequences of human and chimpanzee genes are nearly identical. What then is responsible for the many morphological and behavioral differences between the two species? Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have now determined that the insertion and deletion of large pieces of DNA near genes are highly variable between humans and chimpanzees and may account for major differences between the two species.

The research team lead by Georgia Tech Professor of Biology John McDonald has verified that while the DNA sequence of genes between humans and chimpanzees is nearly identical, there are large genomic "gaps" in areas adjacent to genes that can affect the extent to which genes are "turned on" and "turned off." The research shows that these genomic "gaps" between the two species are predominantly due to the insertion or deletion (INDEL) of viral-like sequences called retrotransposons that are known to comprise about half of the genomes of both species. The findings are reported in the most recent issue of the online, open-access journal Mobile DNA.

Full story here.

Rare Titi Monkey Born At Lincoln Park Zoo

A rare Bolivian gray titi monkey was born this week at Lincoln Park Zoo, officials said today.

Born Monday, October 17, and is one of only approximately 50 individuals of this species in accredited zoos.

The new arrival, yet to be sexed or named, was born Monday as the eighth offspring for mother Delasol and father Ocala.

Mom and baby both appear to be doing well, zoo officials said. There are only about 50 individuals of this species in accredited zoos.

“We are delighted,” said Curator of Primates Maureen Leahy in a news release. “Delasol is the oldest Bolivian gray titi monkey on record to have given birth, and the newborn’s father and older siblings are already pitching in.”

Full story here.

Chimp Breaks Out At Texas Zoo, But Doesn’t Get Far

Dallas Zoo officials said a chimpanzee escaped from her enclosure on Tuesday morning.

Officials said Koko got out of her bedroom and roamed into the hallway. Zoo keepers were cleaning her cage when they realized she was not in her normal area. She got out of her bedroom, but was still in a confined area.

As a precaution, the Wilds of Africa exhibit was evacuated. A Code Red was issued. That means a dangerous animal is on the loose.

The female chimp was discovered and tranquilized.

"It took us a little while to get in a position where we could get a dart into the animal," said Greg Hudson, Dallas Zoo director.

No one was hurt.

Full story here.

Endangered Monkey Pushed To Be 2016 Olympic Mascot

monkey mascot 2016 olympics
Rio de Janeiro environmental officials are hoping to make an endangered monkey species the face of the 2016 Olympics.

According to the state's environmental ministry, the muriqui or woolly spider monkey is one of several animals native to the state that is at risk of extinction.

The monkey is native to the Atlantic rainforest, which covers several Brazilian states, as well as Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay.

Centuries of deforestation and development have seen the rainforest shrink from 1.2 million square kilometres to under 100 thousand square kilometres today.

At the launch of their "Muriqui Rio 2016" campaign, environmentalists displayed merchandise bearing the proposed mascot.

Full story here.

Baby Monkey Born At Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium's monkey population just got a little bigger with the recent birth of a Goeldi's monkey.

Ginger, the aquarium's female Goeldi's monkey, gave birth Sunday morning.

"Mother and baby are slowly bonding and are doing well," said Dr. Dennis Thoney, director of animal operations.

"The newborn has been nursing and the mother appears to be comfortable in her habitat with the newborn on her back. To allow mother and newborn time to bond, we will be closely monitoring but not disturbing them — as such, the sex of the newborn will not be known for another few weeks."

Full story here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Posse Kills, Captures Escaped Animals; Monkey Still Loose In Ohio

Armed deputies have found and killed nearly all the animals — including lions, tigers and bears — that escaped from a Zanesville, Ohio, private preserve on Tuesday, the local sheriff told reporters early this afternoon.

Investigators believe the preserve's owner, Terry Thompson, freed the 50-or-so animals and then killed himself. He was found dead at the scene.

Throughout the day, police hunted the animals because they said they posed a threat to public safety. At a press conference, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said he felt there was no alternative — deputies do not carry tranquilizers, aren't trained to subdue animals with them and were faced with the prospect of dozens of dangerous animals getting into areas where people live.

As night fell, all but one of the 56 escaped animals had been captured or killed. A monkey was still at large and police managed to capture a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys alive. They were taken to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Full story here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Army To Phase Out Nerve-Agent Tests On Monkeys At Aberdeen Proving Ground

After sustained pressure from animal rights groups and a member of Congress, the Army has agreed to stop injecting monkeys with high doses of a nerve-blocking drug meant to simulate a nerve gas attack.

The practice, carried out at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, Md., is designed to train Army medical personnel to respond to chemical attacks on troops.

Last month, Aberdeen received a shipment of 20 male African green monkeys from a Florida company, Worldwide Primates, for the tests, which the Army has been carrying out since at least 2005. Army documents show the monkeys were to be anaesthetized, injected with a nerve-blocking agent, physostigmine, and observed by Army medical personnel before receiving an antidote.

Worldwide Primates obtained the monkeys from the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, according to Army documents.

Army spokesman Michael Elliott confirmed Thursday that the Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense at Aberdeen will “phase out” the nerve tests on the primates, also known as vervet monkeys, although he did not provide a timeline.

Full story here.

Escaped Monkey On Loose In Bandera County

The Bandera County Sheriff's Department on Monday was searching for a monkey that escaped from its cage.

Sheriff's officials said the 30-year-old monkey named "Obie" escaped from a property in the Lake Hills area near Medina Lake on Friday night.

The monkey is about 2-feet tall and is not considered to be dangerous, sheriff's officials said.

Even though the monkey is not aggressive, residents are urged to stay away from him and call the sheriff's department at 830-796-3771.

Full story here.

Teen Fined For Terrorising Capuchin Monkeys At Alma Park Zoo

A Gold Coast teenager who went bananas at Brisbane's Alma Park Zoo, terrorising the monkeys, has been fined $1000 and ordered to perform 150 hours of community service.

Bryce Samuel Boothby, 19, and two friends broke in to the zoo three times earlier this year, gaining access to the enclosure of the park's three black-capped capuchin monkeys.

Boothby faced Southport Magistrates Court today, pleading guilty to three counts of entering premises and two counts of wilful damage.

The court was told that on one occasion the monkeys became so frightened they went in to hiding inside the zoo.

It was weeks before they were found and returned to their enclosure.

Wearing an Adidas tracksuit, Boothby offered no excuse or apology for his behaviour when confronted by media outside the court.

Boothby's defence lawyer Chris Rosser, who told the court the only witnesses to the crimes "were monkeys", said the friends had been drinking heavily before deciding to visit the zoo.

Full story here.

Monkey Invades High Speed Rails Station, Sustains Electric Shock

A wild monkey that got into a high speed rail station in southern Taiwan on Sunday morning suffered burns from an electric shock as it ran around trying to escape, according to the Kaohsiung City Fire Bureau.

The monkey, identified as a protected species known as the Formosan Rock Macaque, was running between the platform, the train track and the rain shelter on the platform to escape the firemen and the city's Agriculture Bureau staff who were trying to catch it.

The Fire Bureau had responded to a call at around 10 a.m. that a monkey was in Zuoying Station of the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. and could pose a threat to the trains' operation.

The catchers tried to lure the macaque with food, but to no avail. They then shot it with an anesthetic dart, but even that failed to quiet the monkey. It continued to run around until it touched a high-voltage cable and received an electric shock, then fell onto a train that was not in service at the time.

The Agriculture Bureau staffers took the animal back to their base, where it was treated for burns on its paws and back.

Full story here.

Alberta, Star Gorilla At San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Found Dead

On Friday, the San Diego Zoo reported that one of its gorillas had died.

Named “Alberta”, the 32-year-old western gorilla spent nearly its entire life at the zoo’s Safari Park division and was hand-raised by animal care staff, said zoo official Jenny Mehlow.

The animal was one of six gorillas at the park, Mehlow said.

Alberta was born in 1979 at the Fresno Zoo before coming to the Safari Park and Mehlow added that western gorillas are considered to be critically endangered, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Before her death, Alberta was the mother of three infants born in 1988, 1996 and 1992 and was said to have “adopted” a baby gorilla from another mother.

A necropsy will be performed to determine just what happened to Alberta.

Full story here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Iran Space Monkey Launch Attempt Fails

Iran acknowledged as a failure on Wednesday its attempt to send a live monkey into space last month -- touted as its first step towards launching a man into space.

"The Kavoshgar-5 rocket carrying a capsule with a live animal (a monkey) was launched during Shahrivar," an Iranian calendar month spanning Aug. 23 to Sept. 22, Deputy Science Minister Mohammad Mehdinejad-Nouri was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

"However, the launch was not publicized as all of its anticipated objectives were not accomplished," Mehdinejad-Nouri told reporters.

He said the launch of a live animal into space was "strategic, and a priority," and expressed hope that future launches would attain more of the objectives set.

Full story here.

A Moment Of Duck Gorilla Zen...

This huge gorilla and tiny duckling became unlikely friends after the bird escaped into the ape's zoo enclosure.

Visitors to the Bronx Zoo in New York were stunned when the baby duck suddenly appeared inches from the massive primate.

Fearing the 90kg western lowland gorilla might react badly to the feathered visitor, onlookers held their breath to see what would happen.

But rather than attacking or teasing the duckling, the four-and-a-half foot gorilla became fascinated with the bird and inspected its new friend with a nearby stick.

The 15-year-old female ape, called Fran, happily let it waddle about before the duckling was removed by zookeepers.

Full story here.

Baby Gorilla On Black Market For $40000 Is Rescued

The black market for baby gorillas is growing, officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo said Tuesday, after a fourth incident this year led to the arrest of alleged poachers trying to sell one infant for $40,000.

This year marks "the highest number of baby gorillas confiscated from poachers in a single year on record," the Congolese Wildlife Authority said in a statement.

"We are very concerned about a growing market for baby gorillas that is feeding a dangerous trafficking activity in rebel controlled areas," said Emmanuel de Merode, warden of Congo's Virunga National Park. "We are powerless to control the international trade in baby gorillas, but our rangers are doing everything they can to stamp it out on the ground."

The park, Africa's oldest, is home to mountain gorillas, lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants and buffalo. The park has also seen fighting inside its borders and nearby during an ongoing 12-year civil war.

The four rescues so far this year, which happened between April and last Thursday, follow the one to two a year saved since 2003, when accurate records were first kept, park spokeswoman LuAnne Cadd told

"If four have been caught since April, the question is how many have been missed?" she asked. "How many more are being captured and sold?"

The latest rescue came when Virunga rangers, acting on a tip, posed as potential buyers of the infant, an eastern lowland gorilla that was hidden inside a small backpack. The three suspects, who wanted $40,000, were arrested once the undercover rangers had possession of the gorilla.

"Like all the infant gorillas we see immediately after confiscation, he was extremely tense and stressed, holding his legs and arms tight up against his body, and turning his head away when he got too frightened," said Jan Ramer, a veterinarian with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinarian Project (MGVP) who treated the gorilla afterwards.

Full story here.

Evolution: Sugar Helped Separate Human Ancestors From Apes

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say that losing the ability to make a particular kind of sugar molecule boosted disease protection in early hominids, and may have directed the evolutionary emergence of our ancestors, the genus Homo.

The findings, published in this week's early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are among the first evidence of a novel link between cell surface sugars, Darwinian sexual selection, and immune function in the context of human origins

Sialic acids are sugar molecules found on the surfaces of all animal cells, where they serve as vital contact points for interaction with other cells and with the surrounding environment, including as targets for invasive pathogens. For millions of years, the common ancestors of humans and other apes shared a particular kind of sialic acid known as N-glycolylneuraminic acid or Neu5Gc. Then, for reasons possibly linked to a malarial parasite ( that bound Neu5Gc, a gene mutation three million or so years ago inactivated the human enzyme involved in making the molecule. Instead, humans began producing more of a slightly different form of sialic acid called Neu5Ac, the precursor of Neu5Gc.

"This occurred at about the same time as early humans were apparently becoming major predators in their environment," said Pascal Gagneux, PhD, an evolutionary biologist and associate professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego. "It's hard to be sure exactly what happened because evolution works on so many things simultaneously, but the change in sialic acid meant that early humans developed an immune response to Neu5Gc. It became viewed by their immune systems as foreign, something to be destroyed. At about the same time, they started eating red meat, a major source of Neu5Gc, which may have further stimulated the immune response."

Full story here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Monkeys Use Minds To "Feel" Textures Via Computer

Monkeys have feelings too. In a mind-meld between monkey and computer, rhesus macaques have learned to "feel" the texture of virtual objects without physically touching a thing. In the future, prosthetic limbs modelled on similar technology could return a sense of touch to people with amputations.

Using two-way communication between brain and machine, the monkeys manoeuvred a cursor with their minds and identified virtual objects by texture, based on electrical feedback from the computer.

Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and his colleagues implanted electrodes into the brains of two monkeys. The electrodes recorded activity in the motor cortex and somatosensory cortex (SSC) – brain areas that orchestrate voluntary movement and sense of touch. Electrical activity from the motor cortex was sent to a computer, which translated the neural chatter into instructions that moved a cursor on screen. The monkeys learned what patterns of thought reliably changed the cursor's position.

The team then assigned a unique texture to each of three identical circles on the screen. When the cursor hovered over each circle, the computer zapped the monkeys' SSCs with the same electrical impulses that occurred when they touched each texture in real life. Finally, the team taught the monkeys to associate a particular texture with a reward.

Full story here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Mystery St. Cloud Monkey Dies After Capture

A mysterious monkey captured in St. Cloud on Wednesday has died.

The Osceola County Sheriff's Office confirmed that the monkey seemed to be doing well, but took a turn for the worse and died around 8:45 a.m.

Officials said the cause of death will not be determined until a necropsy is performed, but noted that the male monkey, believed to be a Rhesus, fell as many as 100 feet when he was tranquilized in a tree canopy Wednesday evening and captured by Animal Control.

"This is very unfortunate and sad. It was our goal to trap him and have him relocated to a setting that would be both safe for him and the community," said Animal Control Director Lee Radebaugh.

St. Cloud police said there was a sighting of a monkey Wednesday afternoon. Our news partner Local 6's helicopter Sky 6 saw the animal in a wooded area near a neighborhood around 5:30 p.m., and it was captured shortly after.

Witnesses told Local 6 on Tuesday that they spotted the primate several times, which they said is around 4 feet tall when standing.

Animal Control officers searched for the monkey in a blocked off an area near New Jersey and Wisconsin Avenues.

The 30-pound monkey was tranquilized in order to be captured and was taken to Animal Control.

Full story here.

Born Free USA Rescues Baboon From Basement


The 3-year-old baboon who was surrendered to Dane County (WI) Animal Services this summer and cared for temporarily by the Dane County Humane Society after living in a basement laundry room is doing “great” at his new, permanent home at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, Texas. In August, the olive baboon joined 13 other baboons in a 2.5-acre enclosure at the 186-acre sanctuary, home to 532 primates, many of whom were rescued from laboratories, roadside zoos and private possession.

In addition to experiencing other primates and the outdoors for the very first time, the baboon — who arrived with the name Monkey — is getting used to his new name, Dane, chosen by a Born Free USA supporter, to honor the Dane County Humane Society, which took care of him during his transition. More than 150 supporters wrote to Born Free USA agreeing with the organization that he deserved a new, more suitable name now that he has a new, more suitable home.

Full story here.

Monkey Lost, Found In Doniphan

A small monkey was lost through a pet door of the home it was staying on Monday. The monkey lost, found in Doniphan, is now safe and warm, awaiting transport to its permanent home.

As a retiring therapy monkey, the grivet was temporarily staying at a central Nebraska home during his relay to a permanent retirement home. No danger was involved since the monkey is vaccinated and not carrying rabies. However, a bite is a possibility if cornering a scared animal, of any species, when unused to its surroundings and the people.

Groene meerkatHelping Hands, a non-profit organization serving quadriplegic and other mobility impaired people, generally use the capuchin monkey as helpers trained to aid people. Other species, such as the grivet monkey lost in Doniphan, Nebraska, are often trainable to suit needs of people.

According to the Grand Island Independent, using a trap baited with gummy bears, a blanket and other familiar items, the Central Nebraska Humane Society was able to catch the monkey about 3pm Thursday. Catching and securing a small monkey may need more than meets the eye, as the lost monkey escaped the room it was being held in at the humane society. A short jaunt through the gift shop likely taught the humane society workers to never underestimate the speed and intelligence of a monkey in unfamiliar surroundings.

Full story here.

Four Orangutans Rescued From Malacca Resort

Four orangutan have been seized from a resort here after the animals were reported to be kept in squalid conditions.

The primates, which included a five-month-old baby, were tranquillised and transported to Malacca Zoo to be quarantined before a decision is reached over whether to release them into the wild or to keep them captive.

A Department of Wildlife and National Parks spokesman said yesterday's morning operation to transfer the orang utan was needed after the management of the resort, which also manages an animal park, failed to comply with Wildlife Conservation Act regulations.

“We gave the management ample notice and reminders but no effort was made to improve the living condition of the primates.”

The spokesman said the enclosure of the orang utan was not built according to the department's specifications.

Furthermore, he said, several non-governmental organizations and animal lovers had pressed for the animals to be rescued.

“The primates were found to have been neglected by the management,” he said.

Four more orangutan at the same resort were expected to be seized tomorrow and sent to Zoo Negara in Selangor, he added.

“There are a total of eight orangutan at the resort and we are seizing all of them,” he said.

Full story here.

Apes As Family: First Film Made For Chimps

Primate Cinema: Apes as Family is an intriguing new art installation currently being shown in the UK. Half of it represents a human's attempt to make a movie specifically for chimps... while the other half shows how chimpanzees react to it.

Los Angeles based artist Rachel Mayeri is behind the dual-screen installation, which juxtaposes her specially made 22-minute primate drama with reactions from chimps in the Edinburgh zoo. You can see a video up top that details Mayeri's project. Coming hot on the heels of the first chimp-geared advertising campaign, Primate Cinema: Apes as Family is the first piece of inter-species entertainment.

Full story here.