Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Research Finds Poop-Throwing By Chimps Is A Sign Of Intelligence

poop throwing chmip
A lot of people who have gone to the zoo have become the targets of feces thrown by apes or monkeys, and left no doubt wondering about the so-called intellectual capacity of a beast that would resort to such foul play. Now however, researchers studying such behavior have come to the conclusion that throwing feces, or any object really, is actually a sign of high ordered behavior. Bill Hopkins of Emory University and his colleagues have been studying the whole process behind throwing and the impact it has on brain development, and have published their results in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Hopkins and his team have focused their research on chimpanzees, mainly due they say, to the fact that chimps are our closet living relative and that they are the only other species besides humans that regularly throw things with a clear target in mind. He and his team have been watching chimps in action for several years and comparing their actions with scans of their brains to see if there were any correlations between those chimps that threw a lot, and those that didn’t or whether they’re accuracy held any deeper meaning. Surprisingly, they found that chimps that both threw more and were more likely to hit their targets showed heightened development in the motor cortex, and more connections between it and the Broca’s area, which they say is an important part of speech in humans. The better chimp throwers, in other words, had more highly developed left brain hemispheres, which is also, non-coincidently, where speech processing occurs in people.

Such findings led the term to suggest that the ability to throw is, or was, a precursor to speech development in human beings.

After making their discovery regarding the parts of the brain that appear to be involved in better throwing in chimps, the team tested the chimps and found that those that could throw better also appeared to be better communicators within their group, giving credence to their idea that speech and throwing are related. Interestingly, they also found that the better throwing chimps didn’t appear to posses any more physical prowess than other chimps, which the researchers suggest means that throwing didn’t develop as a means of hunting, but as a form of communication within groups, i.e. throwing stuff at someone else became a form of self expression, which is clearly evident to anyone who has ever been targeted by a chimp locked up in a zoo.

Full story here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monkeys Eat Like Kings In Annual Lopburi Buffet

A local monkey population in central Thailand has been treated to a lavish feast of fruits and vegetables, as well as dishes prepared by five-star hotels, in a bizarre annual tradition designed to draw in tourists.

The annual 'monkey buffet' festival takes place on the last Sunday in November at the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple in the town of Lopburi, situated 150km north of Bangkok.

The ritual offers thanks to Lopburi's 2,000 monkeys for providing good fortune and prosperity, and tourists.

Locals filled tables with fresh produce, desserts and giant ice blocks, which were then destroyed by the monkeys as locals and foreign tourists looked on with delight.

Full story here.

Leading U.S. Primate Lab Accused Of Illegal Chimp Breeding

The largest primate research facility in the United States has been accused of breeding chimpanzees in violation of government rules, and possibly the law.

At the heart of the case is whether the New Iberia Research Center systematically broke National Institutes of Health rules while breeding chimpanzees, or simply made a few honest and subsequently corrected mistakes.

However, the NIH branch responsible for investigating the allegations has done so opaquely, with apparent reluctance.

“They’ve signed contracts and grants saying that they won’t use federally owned chimps to breed,” said Kathleen Conlee, animal research program director with the Humane Society, who formally filed the accusations in March with the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services. “We have evidence that they’re breeding federally owned chimps.”

New Iberia and the Humane Society are old adversaries: In 2009, undercover video taken by Humane Society activists led to a government investigation of disturbing Animal Welfare Act violations at the facility, which houses 350 chimpanzees used in disease research. Some of the chimpanzees are owned privately by companies or universities, and others are government owned.

Full story here.

112 Monkeys, Baboon To Get New Home After Bankruptcy

A wildlife shelter that went bust will be transferring 113 primates to a nearby sanctuary after a bankruptcy judge on Monday approved the move.

"We don't have definitive historical numbers on rescues, but it is clearly one of the largest single rescues we know of," Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, told

Born Free expects to receive the 112 macaque monkeys and one baboon in a few months at its primate sanctuary in Dilley, Texas. The animals are currently at the San Antonio-based Wild Animal Orphanage, which last year filed for bankruptcy.

"This is a heartbreaking situation particularly for this large group of primates who would otherwise likely be euthanized without our humane intervention," Roberts said in a statement. "Every day wild animals need to be rescued from 'pet owners,' laboratories, roadside zoos, and other abusive circumstances, but this time it is about a large sanctuary having to shut down completely — and demonstrates just how challenging wildlife rescue work is."

Full story here.

Endangered Baby Gorilla Born At Chicago Zoo Dies

A preliminary exam shows that an endangered baby gorilla born nine days ago at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo died of head trauma.

Zoo workers discovered the baby gorilla was dead Friday morning, as she was being carried around by her mother.

The zoo says workers allowed the mother, 16-year-old Bana, to keep the baby for several hours "to make peace with what happened." She was a first-time mother.

The cause of death was determined later in the day during a necropsy, the animal version of an autopsy.

The baby's father was a 22-year-old silverback gorilla named Kwan.

The baby was the first Western lowland gorilla born at the zoo since 2005. She had not been named.

In a statement, the zoo says the baby appeared to be fully developed.

Full story here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Exterminators Arrested For Orangutan Killings

The police have arrested two palm oil plantation workers for allegedly killing dozens of monkeys and orangutans in Puan Cepak village in Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan.

The suspects, both exterminators, claimed that they were paid to kill the animals under orders from a supervisor.

“They received Rp 200,000 [US$22] to kill a monkey and Rp 1 million for an orangutan,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said on Monday as quoted by

The suspects claimed that they killed 20 orangutans and monkeys between 2008 and 2010, although police believe the true number of slaughtered animals number to be much higher.

Saud said that the men would send dogs to find and kill the animals if they could not be shot.

“If [the animals] had already been shot and killed, they would take pictures and ask for pay from the company,” he said.

Among items taken into evidence by investigators were photographs of the slain animals and buried bones unearthed near the plantation.

When asked whether or not the police would arrest the managers, Saud said, “We are developing [the investigation].”

Full story here.

Palm Coast Monkey Shot With Tranquilizer Dart Flees Police

loose monkey
Flagler County's latest fugitive threw a bit of a monkey wrench at law enforcement Sunday.

A rhesus monkey perched in a tree fended off capture for six hours and then gave officers the slip.

Joyce Ramirez, a Palm Coast resident, saw the monkey in a patch of woods at the corner of Colorado Drive and Covington Lane. She reported it to law enforcement about 9:30 a.m.

She spotted the monkey at eye level, but it soon scurried up to the top of the tallest tree it could find.

"I've seen deer," said Ramirez, who moved to Flagler County from New Jersey. "I've seen snakes. But a monkey? You've got to be kidding me."

Ramirez tried to coax the primate to the ground with cantaloupe and bread, but it chose to stay in the tree, much to the chagrin of law enforcement watching helplessly on the ground.

Authorities weren't monkeying around with the rhesus. During the standoff, two animal control trucks, two sheriff's squad cars, a sheriff's sport utility vehicle and a truck from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were parked near the primate. A Palm Coast fire department ladder truck arrived just before the monkey escaped.

Animal control hit the monkey with a tranquilizer dart, but officers could not find a way to safely get the groggy primate out of the tree.

Once the sedative wore off, the monkey made a dash for freedom. Officers chased it about a block to Colchester Lane, where it was last seen.

With the monkey alert and on the move, authorities conceded defeat and called off the chase.

Mike Lagana, a corporal with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, was one of the first officers to arrive. Lagana said he never could have anticipated spending his day staking out a monkey.

"It's always something new," Lagana said during a break in the action. "It's what makes you want to come to work."

This is the first time a monkey has been reported on the lam in Palm Coast, Lagana said.

Authorities suspect the primate might have come from a troop of wild rhesus monkeys that lives in Ocala's Silver Springs State Park.

Full story here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Drunk Zoo Visitor Attacked By Monkeys After Climbing Into Pen

A drunk zoo visitor was taken to hospital after he climbed into a monkey enclosure to "play" and suffered a series of painful injuries when the animals attacked him.

The incident was captured on camera by an amateur filmmaker, whose footage shows the man swimming across a pool towards a group of spider monkeys.

Joao Leite Dos Santos, a mechanic from Sao Paulo, Brazil, had been drinking alcohol when he went to the Sorocaba Zoo on Sunday.

He climbed over a fence, pulled off his shirt and made his way towards the animals as tourists at the popular city zoo looked on, with many taking photos and videos of his stunt.

As Mr Dos Santos swam towards the primates, two can be seen reaching out from the side of the pool in a bid to grab hold of him.

The animals scratched and bit at his arms and shoulders as he moved closer to their group.

Full story here.

Chimps' Days In Labs May Be Dwindling

Chimps’ similarity to humans makes them valuable for research, and at the same time inspires intense sympathy. To research scientists, they may look like the best chance to cure terrible diseases. But to many other people, they look like relatives behind bars.

Biomedical research on chimps helped produce a vaccine for hepatitis B, and is aimed at one for hepatitis C, which infects 170 million people worldwide, but there has long been an outcry against the research as cruel and unnecessary. Now, because of a major push by advocacy organizations, a decision to stop such research in the United States could come within a year. As it is, the United States is one of only two countries that conduct invasive research on chimpanzees. The other is the central African nation of Gabon.

“This is a very different moment than ever before,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States. “Now is the time to get these chimps out of invasive research and out of the labs.”

Full story here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mother Monkeys Help Sons Find Right Girl For Mating

If you are a male human, nothing puts a damper on romantic success like having your mother in tow. If you are a male northern muriqui monkey, however, mom's presence may be your best bet to find and successfully mate with just the right girl at the right time.

In a study of wild primates, reported this week (Nov. 7, 2011) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison anthropologist Karen B. Strier describes a monkey society where equality and tolerance rule and where sexually mature males, still living at home, seem to get helpful access to mates by the mere presence of their mothers and other maternal kin.

The new study, which combines Strier's long-term behavioral studies of wild muriquis with new genetic assays obtained from their scat, is important because it can inform conservation practices for critically endangered primates. But the study's big surprise, says Strier, was evidence that could extend the 'grandmother hypothesis,' the notion that human females evolved to live well past their reproductive years because of the rearing advantages conferred by post-menopausal women on their grandchildren.

Full story here.

Panzee The Chimp Demonstrates Understanding Of Speech

A 25-year-old chimpanzee named "Panzee" has just demonstrated that speech perception is not a uniquely human trait.

Well-educated Panzee understands more than 130 English language words and even recognizes words in sine-wave form, a type of synthetic speech that reduces language to three whistle-like tones. This shows that she isn't just responding to a particular person's voice or emotions, but instead she is processing and perceiving speech as humans do.

"The results suggest that the common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans may have had the capability to perceive speech-like sounds before the evolution of speech, and that early humans were taking advantage of this latent ability when speech did eventually emerge," said Lisa Heimbauer who presented a talk today on the chimp at the 162nd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Diego.

Heimbauer, a doctoral candidate and researcher at Georgia State University's Language Research Center, and colleagues Michael Owren and Michael Beran tested Panzee on her ability to understand words communicated via sine-wave speech, which replicates the estimated frequency and amplitude patterns of natural utterances. "Tickle," "M&M," "lemonade," and "sparkler" were just a few of the test words.

Full story here.

Experimental Drug Slims Obese Monkeys

An experimental drug that targets and kills fat cells in the blood appears to help obese rhesus monkeys lose weight, a new study suggests.

In the future, this approach may help obese humans lose weight, according to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers.

"Targeting blood vessels of white fat tissue is a novel conceptual approach against obesity," said study author Dr. Wadih Arap, the Stringer Professor of Medicine and Experimental Diagnostic Imaging at M.D. Anderson. "Adipotide is a new drug candidate against obesity to be translated into potential clinical applications in humans."

The report was published in the Nov. 9 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

The usual way drugs work to counter obesity is either by suppressing appetite or by increasing metabolism to try to burn calories faster, the investigators noted.

However, this new drug works by attaching itself to fat cells in the blood vessels and triggering a synthetic protein that causes the cell to die. These cells are then reabsorbed and metabolized, the researchers explained.

When the drug was tried on monkeys that were naturally obese they lost about 11 percent of their body weight over a month, Arap's team found.

In addition, the treated monkeys also improved their insulin resistance, which is a marker for developing type 2 diabetes. After treatment, the monkeys used 50 percent less insulin, the researchers found.

Full story here.