Monday, December 31, 2012

Daredevil Gorilla Walks Across Tightrope

gorilla tightrope

The 12-year-old silverback moved to Germany from Denmark's Givskud Zoo at the end of March. He was acquired by the German zoo after the previous male gorilla Massa proved to be infertile.

Kidogo, a western lowland gorilla nicknamed 'King Kodo' by his keepers, shares his gorilla garden with females Muna, 23 and Oya, 24. Roughly translated from Swahili, his name means "small".

After he initially suffered extreme homesickness, he has now discovered he is somewhat of an artiste.

This year, Krefeld zoo celebrates its 75 anniversary. A tightrope-walking gorilla would likely be a highlight of any zoo.

Full story here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Monkey Day 2012!

Happy Monkey Day!  Finally, the yearlong wait is over and once again, here are your top 10 Monkey and Primate News highlights from 2012 to help you celebrate Monkey Day!

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10.  FaceTime For Apes: Orangutans Use iPads To Video Chat

Slutty ape ipad pictures incoming...

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9.  Kanzi The Chimpanzee Can Start A Fire, Cook His Own Food

Well, Kanzi's doing better than about 90% of any of the contestants on Survivor.  At least Kanzi is being taught responsible Marshmallow eating practices.

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8.  Michael Jackson's Chimp Paints $1,500 Abstracts

I'm sure Joe Jackson is kicking himself for letting Bubbles slip away.

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7.  'Chimera' Monkeys Created In Lab by Combining Several Embryos Into One

Roku and Hex from OHSU News on Vimeo.

This is bound to bring a whole new dimension to the Jerry Springer show in about twenty years.

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6.  Baboons Recognize Real Words from Gibberish

Currently on hire for Nick Nolte translation work.

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5.  Lab Tech Found Drunk, Partially Nude, With Monkeys On The Loose

"What?  What?!?  Like I need to wear pants when entering data?  Oh, what?  Those monkeys?  Yeah they are just there for motivational support." 

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4.  Zoo Gives Aging Gorilla A Bunny Companion


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3.  Conan Overcomes 2nd Vasectomy To Become Father For The Third Time

You just can't keep a good chimp down.  Conan! What is best in life?  

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2.  Wife Breastfeeds Monkeys To Help Husband's Animal Training

I wish my wife had this kind of dedication to my trade.  Alas, my organic alligator farm residents go to sleep hungry every night.

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1.  Monkey Found Alone At Toronto Ikea, Wearing Coat

When Yasmin Nakhuda suited Darwin up in his winter coat and put him in the car for a little trip to Ikea, she had no idea he was about to be the biggest internet sensation since that ridiculously photogenic guy.  When Darwin was left alone in the car, he decided to venture out on his own and was immediately plastered all over Twitter and Facebook by stunned shoppers (Also seized by Animal Control since owning a monkey is illegal in Toronto).  Here are a few of our favorite memes that have come from this so far:

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Another Monkey Day is here and you are not sure what to do with your self?  Well, how about socializing with some like-minded monkey lovers over at Reddit or Facebook!

Or, how about lifting your spirits and gaining some karma by doing something charitable and donating to some primate sanctuaries in need? Here is an alphabetical list of sanctuaries that are always looking for willing donors, please help them however you can:

Happy Monkey Day everybody!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Species Of Slow Loris Recognized

An international team of scientists studying the elusive nocturnal primate the slow loris in the jungles of Borneo have discovered an entirely new species. The team's analysis of the primate's distinctive facial fur markings, published in the American Journal of Primatology, reveals the existence of one entirely new species, while two of species, previously considered as possible sub-species, are being officially recognized as unique.

"Technological advances have improved our knowledge about the diversity of several nocturnal mammals," said Rachel Munds from the University of Missouri Columbia. "Historically many species went unrecognized as they were falsely lumped together as one species. While the number of recognized primate species has doubled in the past 25 years some nocturnal species remain hidden to science."

Full story here.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Monkey Found Alone At Toronto Ikea, Wearing Coat

Animal control came to collect a monkey from a Toronto Ikea store on Sunday, after the animal was spotted in the parking lot.

An Ikea spokesperson told CBC News that the monkey was first spotted in the parking lot of the Ikea store located near Leslie Street and Highway 401.

Staff at the store quickly contacted animal control, and the monkey was kept confined until animal services arrived.

Toronto Police Sgt. Ed Dzingala told CBC News that the owners, who were shopping in the store at the time, have come forward to claim the monkey.

Full story here.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Michael Jackson's Chimp Paints $1,500 Abstracts

Among the boldface names you won't be expecting to find exhibiting at Art Basel Miami Beach is Bubbles, Michael Jackson's erstwhile chimpanzee companion.

His paintings — two moody abstracts each priced at $1,500 — feature in "Endangered," a fundraiser in aid of the Center for Great Apes, the sanctuary where he's lived for eight years.

Full story here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Wife Breastfeeds Monkeys To Help Husband's Animal Training

A Chinese woman has revealed she breastfeeds her student monkeys to keep them happy.

Jiao Xinzhen believes it is the key to the success of her husband Huang Aiqing’s monkey-training school in Central China.

Speaking about her bizarre methods, the 27-year-old said: “Many times, some of the baby monkeys slip onto our bed at night to suck my breasts.”

She added: “I feel like they are just like my children.”

The couple love their chimpan-ions so much they have even adopted a monkey as a second child and a playmate for their human son.

Full story here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Conan Overcomes 2nd Vasectomy To Become Father For The Third Time

conan the chimp
The latest paternity test at the national sanctuary for retired research chimpanzees confirms that Conan has overcome two vasectomies to father three daughters.

Chimp Haven announced the results Monday.

All three babies were surprises. Every male chimp must get a vasectomy before coming to the northwest Louisiana sanctuary near Keithville. After Conan fathered a baby in 2007, his tubes were clipped again.

Then a Valentine’s Day baby turned out to be his, and every male chimp still interested in and living with females got a more complicated vasectomy. The females all were put on birth control, just to be sure.

“As a sanctuary for chimpanzees in need, it is not the mission of Chimp Haven to create more chimpanzees,” said president and director Linda Brent. “We take our responsibility to prevent pregnancies very seriously, but sometimes life finds a way.”

Full story here.

20-Year-Old Video Of Toddler Playing With Gorillas Causes Controversy

A gorilla picks up a tiny toddler and carries her around like a doll in a video that just hit the web.

British conservation activist Damian Aspinall shot the video 22 years ago at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent, but hasn’t made it public it until now.

He feared a backlash because the little girl seen playing with the 300-pound primate is his daughter Tansy — who was just 18 months old at the time.

He said he released the video to show how gentle gorillas actually are...

Full story here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New African Monkey Species Identified

monkey lesula

Researchers have identified a new species of African monkey, locally known as the lesula, described in the Sep. 12 issue of the open access journal PLOS ONE. This is only the second new species of African monkey discovered in the last 28 years.

The first lesula found was a young captive animal seen in 2007 in a school director's compound in the town of Opala in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The young monkey bore a resemblance to the owl faced monkey, but its coloration was unlike that of any other known species.

Over the following three years, the study authors located additional lesula in the wild, determined its genetic and anatomical distinctiveness, and made initial observations of its behavior and ecology, as reported in the PLOS ONE paper.

The new species' range covers about 6,500 square miles in central DRC, in what was one of Congo's last biologically unexplored forest blocks. Although its range is remote and only lightly settled at present, the lesula is threatened by local bush meat hunting.

Full story here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Smuggler Caught In India With Monkey In Pants

smuggled loris
Customs authorities in India have arrested a man who was attempting to board a flight at New Delhi's international airport with a monkey in his underwear, a report said on Monday.

The man, who was detained along with two other travelers, had arrived from Bangkok and was about to take a connecting flight to Dubai on Jet Airways, the Press Trust of India reported.

Personnel at the airport found the seven-inch loris, a type of monkey native to India and southeast Asia, "in one of the passenger’s underwear during the security check," PTI said.

Another loris was discovered in a dustbin at the Indira Gandhi International airport.

"They had abandoned him as they were unable to carry him," a senior security official told the news agency.

The passengers, named as Hamad Al-Dhaheri, Mohammed Al-Shamsi and Rashid Al-Shamsi, were handed over to Wildlife and Customs Department for further questioning and were later arrested by customs police.

Authorities were trying to determine the exact origin of the monkeys.

Full story here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lab Tech Found Drunk, Partially Nude, With Monkeys On The Loose

Lab Tech Found Drunk, Partially Nude, With Monkeys On The Loose
A Georgia Health Sciences University lab tech was jailed this week after he was found intoxicated with his pants down in a campus locker room, a GHSU spokeswoman said Friday. Two lab monkeys were found outside their cages, authorities said.

According to a GHSU Police Bureau incident report, a co-worker discovered Coley Mitchell, 32, partially unclothed in a locker room in the Sanders Research and Education Building about 10:30 p.m. Monday.

Campus police said Mitchell, a Lab Animal Services technician, was intoxicated and seated in a chair with his pants half-down.

The spokeswoman said two monkeys were found outside their cages in the lab but were confined to the room.

From Eric Millikin via the Augusta Chronicle.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Separated Gorilla Brothers Reunite After Three Years With A Hug

gorilla hug

Officials at a British zoo said a pair of gorilla brothers separated for three years greeted each other with a big hug.

Zookeepers at the Longleat Safari park in Wiltshire, England, said Kesho, 13, has grown into a full-sized adult silverback gorilla since the last time he saw his brother, Alf, 9, but the two primates literally greeted one another with open arms -- hugging, shaking hands and slapping one another on the back -- when they were recently reunited at the zoo, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

Full story here. More photos here.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Gorilla Accidentally Hangs Himself In Prague Zoo

Tatu died in the morning while playing on a rope structure in the gorilla wing, the zoo director said.

The young male gorilla, aged five, was the emblematic animal of Prague Zoo, since 2007, birth year.

Indeed, the birth of Tatu was one of the rarest births in captivity and was broadcasted on live on the Internet.

"This is the most tragic event that has happened at the Prague zoo since a flood damaged a large section in August 2002," director Miroslav Bobek said in a statement.

Full story here.

Iran Ready To Launch Monkey Into Space

Iran plans to send a monkey into space following the holy month of Ramadan. Despite economic sanctions and a technological blockade imposed by a US-Israeli-led coalition, the Islamic Republic is making progress in its space ambitions.

­The Iranian Space Agency (ISA) plans to blast a test monkey into orbit inside its Kavoshgar-5 (Explorer) rocket later this month. "All stages of launching the Explorer with living creatures have been accomplished," ISA director Hamid Fazeli announced on Wednesday, as cited by Fars news agency.

The primate plan was first announced in March, but Tehran had to delay the launch to conduct “complementary tests.”

Full story here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Loose Pet Monkey That Bit 3 Put Down

Police in Asheville say a monkey running loose on the streets bit three people.

Officers say they were called around 4:30 p.m. Sunday for a report of the monkey on Upland Road.

Three people said the monkey bit them. Two were injured on the ear and one was bit on the finger.

"We thought it was cute at first. We didn't try to hold it or anything and then it jumped on us," said Jeannie Deweese who was bitten by the monkey.

Deweese says she and her daughter were standing in their yard, when the monkey came over.

The monkey, described as a small brown, white and gray marmoset named Cous Cous belongs to Deweese's neighbor.

"She is a loveable animal. She would never attack anyone. I think she was scared," said Cous Cous's owner Gabrielle Campiformia.

Full story here.

Rarest Gorilla Revealed in Camera Trap Video

An extraordinary new video reveals the first camera trap footage of the Cross River gorilla, the world's rarest gorilla.

Although the video, shot by Wildlife Conservation Society conservationists in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, is only a few minutes long, it presents a vivid microcosm of these primates' lives -- their suffering at the hands of humans, their struggle, but also their pride.

As the footage (see it below) begins, you can see one gorilla stopping briefly to rest under a tree, but then compelled to move forward by the troop. When another spots the camera trap, it briefly charges, Tarzan style, toward the screen, beating its chest.

Watching the footage, the connection to these magnificent animals, who are in turn so connected to us on the primate family tree, is undeniable. You can see how one gorilla has lost its hand, likely in a snare set by poachers, but the individual keeps moving and trying to survive. One can only wonder how hard that gorilla's life is now.

Fewer than 250 Cross River gorillas remain in the world. This video footage may be one of the last reminders of their existence. They are rarely observed by field researchers, so who knows when such footage will ever be captured again.

Full story here.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Inebriated Largo Driver Found With Monkey

When police pulled over a man speeding on East Bay Drive Thursday night they no doubt got surprise when they found a monkey in the truck along with him.

According to police, officers pulled over 36-year-old Eugene Carl Kotelman, who was driving 70 mph on the road, just after midnight Friday morning.

Police discovered Kotelman had been driving on a suspended license and had a lengthy history of DUI charges. He was again arrested for DUI.

The monkey, who was in the truck with him at the time, was turned over to one of his friends.

When Kotelman posted bond this morning he was arrested again by FWC for Possession of Wildlife and 2 counts Violation of Fish or Wildlife Rules.

The monkey is now in FWC custody.

Full story here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Baboons Recognize Real Words from Gibberish

Baboons can learn to tell the difference between real four-letter words and nonsense combinations of letters. And once they figure out the patterns, these monkeys can guess with impressive accuracy whether a new word is real or fake.

Because baboons can’t actually read, a new study supports the theory that the brains of our primate ancestors held the necessary hardware for understanding written words long before humans evolved. Only after we starting writing and reading about 5,400 years or so did we apply our object-recognition abilities to letter symbols.

And even though we think of letters as sound units that allow us to piece words together, the new findings suggest that our brains may also view written letters like the legs on a table or the wheels on a car. Each part fits together to create an object that we recognize as a whole.

Eventually, the findings might weigh in on debates about how best to teach children to read.

“Obviously, we are using letters to get from the printed to the spoken form, and it is absolutely essential for kids to learn that this has to happen, but that’s only part of the story,” said Jonathan Grainger, a cognitive psychologist at CNRS, a national research center in Marseille, France. “The other reason we use letters in the very first phases of learning to read is that we’re basically doing what we do with ordinary everyday objects – using object parts to reconstruct the whole identity.”

“We can now look at what happens when baboons are learning words and also associating them with meaning,” he added. “We have a new paradigm that needs to be explored.”

Full story here.

Conan The Chimp Fathers Second Surprise Baby Chimp, Despite Two Vasectomies

Conan, the twice-vasectomized former research chimp, has fathered yet another surprise baby at Chimp Haven.

That makes two for Conan, and there may be a third on the way.

That's the word from the Keithville sanctuary, following DNA testing to determine the paternity of Valentina Rose, born on Valentine's Day to 29-year-old Flora.

This surprised Chimp Haven employees because all of the males chimps in the group have had vasectomies. Especially Conan, who was re-vasectomized after another unexpected birth in 2006.

Tracy was born to Theresa in 2006. DNA testing pointed to Conan. In fact, Valentina's mother, Flora, lives in the same social group as Tracy. "Tracy and Valentina Rose are half-sisters," says Chimp Haven Director, Dr. Linda Brent.

Flora's surprise pregnancy prompted a round of tests for the rest of the females in her group, which revealed yet another pregnancy. 42-year-old Ginger is expected to deliver in late July or early August.

Testing to determine the paternity of that baby chimp cannot be done until after the birth.

Regardless, Conan is set to be vasectomized - again - immediately.

Full story here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monkey Restrained And Left Alone Dies In New Brunswick Lab

Five months after a monkey was scalded to death in an industrial washing machine at its lab in Pennington, Bristol-Myers Squibb has again been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after a second crab-eating macaque died at a New Jersey facility.

This time, the monkey died at the New Brunswick lab after it was left restrained and unattended, according to an inspection report from the USDA.

Company spokeswoman Jennifer Fron-Mauer confirmed the death, which occurred Dec. 17, but could not provide specific details as to how the primate died or its gender.

"Employees failed to follow established company policies and procedures designed to protect animals in our care," Fron-Mauer said in an email yesterday. "When those policies and procedures are not followed, disciplinary action is taken."

She did not say what kind of punishment was meted out.

Full story here.

Gorilla Briefly Escapes Buffalo Zoo, Bites Keeper

A 400-pound gorilla that escaped from its cage at an upstate New York zoo and bit a zookeeper has been captured in a zookeepers’ lounge and has been tranquilized.

The Buffalo Zoo says a 24-year-old male gorilla named Koga got out of his cage into an aisle where the keeper was working Monday morning and bit her on the hand and calf.

The keeper locked herself in with the zoo’s other gorillas and called the animal escape team.

Police locked down the zoo while Koga was confined to a lounge outside public areas and was tranquilized.

The Buffalo Zoo has six western lowland gorillas in its main animal building: Koga, four females and a baby female. It’s investigating how Koga escaped.

The zookeeper suffered minor bite wounds. She was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Full story here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gorilla Genome Sheds New Light On Human Evolution

Scientists have sequenced the genome of the gorilla, the last great ape to have its genes decoded, and say it gives new insights into differences between the apes and humans -- including their ability to produce competitive sperm.

While confirming that our closest relative is the chimpanzee, the research also shows that around 15 percent of the human gene map resembles the gorilla more closely than it does the chimpanzee genome.

Chris Tyler-Smith, who worked with a team of scientists who presented their findings in a telephone briefing, said that while many human genes are similar to the gorilla versions, it is the ones that differ that are often most intriguing.

One difference that stuck out was in the genes involved in sperm production, he said.

"Gorillas live in groups with one male and lots of females, so there's not much opportunity for sperm competition," he explained. "It was interesting for us to see that some genes involved in sperm formation...had either become inactive in gorillas or had decreased in copy number."

Full story here.

Zoo Gives Aging Gorilla A Bunny Companion

An elderly gorilla that lives at a Pennsylvania zoo has a new companion: a bunny named Panda. The Erie Zoo's gorilla, Samantha, has been without a full-time friend since the death of Rudy, a male gorilla, in 2005.

But officials say the 47-year-old western lowland gorilla is too old to be paired with another gorilla. So they opted last month to introduce her to Panda, a Dutch rabbit, last month.

The Erie Times-News reports Samantha and Panda get along well. Samantha will gently scratch under the bunny's chin and share her food.

Officials at the zoo say Samantha has always had a gentle personality. She was hand-raised and was more comfortable around humans even when Rudy was alive.

Full story here.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Sanctuary Chimp Pregnancies A Surprise As Males Sterilized

After two unexpected pregnancies at a sanctuary for retired research chimpanzees, other female chimps have been put on birth control and the males are getting a new round of vasectomies.

The pregnancy at Chimp Haven, opened in 2005 near Shreveport, was discovered on Valentine's Day when a worker noticed Flora, a 29-year-old chimp, carrying a newborn.

Chimpanzees like to carry things around, and the worker thought Flora was holding a stuffed toy. Then she saw a tiny foot, sanctuary director Linda Brent said Monday.

An ultrasound Friday confirmed 49-year-old Ginger also was pregnant and due in late July or early August, Brent said.

Every male gets a vasectomy before being sent to Chimp Haven because there's a surplus of captive chimpanzees.

Full story here.

Harvard Halts Research After Fourth Monkey Dies

New experiments at Harvard Medical School’s New England Primate Research Center have been suspended after a cottontop tamarin monkey died at the facility on Sunday, the fourth primate death there in 21 months.

Calling the deaths of four primates at the Southborough facility “absolutely unacceptable, deeply regrettable and personally disturbing to me,” Jeffrey Flier, dean of Harvard Medical School, vowed to take aggressive action to resolve systems, processes and human errors at the facility.

“When I learned of the most recent incident on Sunday, I immediately halted all new research protocols and new research on existing protocols at the (New England Primate Research Center),” Flier said in a statement. “The goal of this action is to provide time for our personnel to create and implement a corrective action plan.”

Harvard Medical School is assembling an independent review committee to assess the facility’s logistics and management and established a team led by veterinary staff and supervisors who will perform additional daily checks verifying the heath and wellness of every animal.

Full story here.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Santa Ana Zoo Welcomes A Baby Monkey

The Santa Ana Zoo in Prentice Park has a new addition – a baby monkey born Jan. 31.

The silvery langur - Trachypithecus cristatus – is still unnamed.

Its parents are Oliver and Daria, and all can be seen in the primate area at the zoo.

Silvery langurs, which eat leaves, are typically found in the dense tropical forests of Indonesia and Malaysia, where they are considered near-threatened due to land clearance, often for palm oil plantations.

The baby monkeys are bright orange at birth with pale skin. Within three to five months the coat becomes grayish, and they eventually weigh up to 15 pounds.

Full story here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Monkeys Thought To Be Extinct ‘Rediscovered’ In Indonesia

Scientists working in the dense jungles of Indonesia have "rediscovered" a large, gray monkey so rare it was believed by many to be extinct.

They were all the more baffled to find the Miller's Grizzled Langur - its black face framed by a fluffy, Dracula-esque white collar - in an area well outside its previously recorded home range.

The team set up camera traps in the Wehea Forest on the eastern tip of Borneo island in June, hoping to captures images of clouded leopards, orangutans and other wildlife known to congregate at several mineral salt licks.

The pictures that came back caught them all by surprise: groups of monkeys none had ever seen.

Full story here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rare Monkey Caught On Camera In The Wild For The First Time

Myanmar snub-nosed monkeys, previously only known from one dead specimen, have been photographed living in the wild for the first time, conservationists say.

The animal was photographed by a camera trap operated by a joint team from Fauna & Flora International, Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association, and People Resources and Conservation Foundation.

Full story here.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Grandpa The 'Psychic' Monkey To Predict GOP Winner In New Hampshire Primary

Grandpa, the wise, old spider monkey who calls the Staten Island Zoo home, views life through Yoda-like eyes — and his fans say that eerily accurate is the future he sees.

His keepers have been testing his supposedly psychic powers by having him pick the winners of tennis matches and pigskin tilts. But the Daily News is giving Grandpa his toughest challenge yet — choosing which candidate in the crowded GOP field will claim victory in the New Hampshire primary.

On Monday, the day before the showdown in the Granite State, The News will have Grandpa pick a banana from a bunch. Each banana will have written on it the name of a GOP candidate — and pity all who are not the chosen banana.

In the past, Grandpa has shown himself to be an ace at beating odds in sporting matches that break down to a simple flip of a coin, like his triumph in picking the Green Bay Packers to win the Super Bowl last year.

But The News’ test will confront the zoo’s “elder statesman” with a race that has proven to be chaotic and a cast of characters whose fates have changed wildly. Even though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is running well ahead of the pack in New Hampshire, where he owns a summer home, the zoo’s head curator says it is impossible for mere mortals to know how Grandpa will pick ’em.

Full story here.

New Vaccine Protects Monkeys Against Primate Version of HIV

Researchers have developed a vaccine that protects Rhesus monkeys against SIV, the simian version of the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS in humans. Scientists say the experiment could lead to improved treatments for AIDS, and speed development of an effective HIV vaccine.

Building on the results of a large experimental AIDS-vaccine trial in Thailand reported in 2009, researchers developed a two-stage vaccine made up of proteins from the simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, that protects a significant percentage of Rhesus macaques against the disease. SIV is a model for HIV because the human virus cannot infect monkeys.

Colonel Nelson Michael is a molecular virologist with the U.S Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute, and senior author of the research.

“We have now very good evidence, with new generation vaccines that we are seeing, the kinds of promising results in animals that would propel us to spend significant resources to test these vaccines in humans, which is what we are planning to do,” said Michael.

Full story here.

FaceTime For Apes: Orangutans Use iPads To Video Chat

Orangutans living in captivity will soon start using iPads for primate play-dates, using Skype or FaceTime to interact with their brethren in other zoos, according to zookeepers. The great apes have been playing with iPads for about six months at the Milwaukee County Zoo, and they’ve been such a hit that other zoos plan to introduce them, too.

The “Apps for Apes” program started after a zookeeper commented online about getting some iPads for her gorilla charges. Someone donated a used iPad, and it turned out the gorillas didn’t care for it. But the orangutans loved it, as the LA Times says.

The apes don’t typically get to hold the pricey tablets, because they’re strong enough to break them in half, zookeepers said. Instead, a keeper will hold the iPads up to a primate cage and let the apes interact with them. The orangutans have been playing with apps like Doodle Buddy by sticking their fingers through their cages’ mesh. One orangutan, 31-year-old MJ, is apparently a huge fan of David Attenborough nature programs, the BBC reports.

A group called Orangutan Outreach, which is involved in the Apps for Apes effort, is waiting for the iPad 3 to come out so the original iPad will become obsolete and cheaper for zoos to obtain. The Houston Zoo has one iPad but hasn’t introduced it to the orangutans yet, while Zoo Atlanta, the Toronto Zoo and the Phoenix Zoo are waiting to get iPads. When they do, zookeepers across the institutions plan to set up play-dates when the apes can chat via Skype or FaceTime.

Full story here.

Whiff of "Love Hormone" Helps Monkeys Show a Little Kindness

Oxytocin, the "love hormone" that builds mother-baby bonds and may help us feel more connected toward one another, can also make surly monkeys treat each other a little more kindly.

Administering the hormone nasally through a kid-sized nebulizer, like a gas mask, a Duke University research team has shown that it can make rhesus macaques pay more attention to each other and make choices that give another monkey a squirt of fruit juice, even when they don't get one themselves.

Two macaques were seated next to each other and trained to select symbols from a screen that represented giving a rewarding squirt of juice to one's self, giving juice to the neighbor, or not handing out any juice at all. In repeated trials, they were faced with a choice between just two of these options at a time: reward to self vs. no reward; reward to self vs. reward to other; and reward to other vs. no reward.

"The inhaled oxytocin enhanced 'prosocial' choices by the monkeys, perhaps by making them pay more attention to the other individual," said neuroscientist Michael Platt, who headed the study and is director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. "If that's true, it's really cool, because it suggests that oxytocin breaks down normal social barriers."

Earlier work by Platt's group had shown that macaques would rather give a reward to another monkey when the alternative is no reward for anyone, a concept they call "vicarious reinforcement." Their data in the latest study show an apparent improvement in vicarious reinforcement about a half-hour after exposure to oxytocin. Interestingly, for the first half-hour, the monkey was more likely to reward itself.

Full story here.

Banana Sam Back At SF Zoo

Banana-Sam was resting comfortably behind the scenes at the San Francisco Zoo on Sunday, with staffers keeping close tabs on the squirrel monkey after his weekend kidnapping ordeal.

The 17-year-old primate spent New Year's Day recuperating out of the public eye after a nearly 40-hour adventure that began with his abduction late Thursday or early Friday.

The 2-pound creature was shaking, hungry and cold when police returned him to the zoo Saturday evening, but he was relatively clean and with no obvious trauma, said Danny Latham, a zoo spokesman.

"We have no idea the conditions in which he was kept," he said.

Latham said it was unclear when Banana-Sam would return to his exhibit with his 17 squirrel monkey friends.

Full story here.

Kanzi The Chimpanzee Can Start A Fire, Cook His Own Food

A chimpanzee living in Iowa knows how to use tools and can even start fires and cook, animal researchers say.

Kanzi, a male bonobo chimp, lives at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, where scientists taught him to use matches.

Now Kanzi enjoys roasting marshmallows over an open fire and pan-frying hamburgers, the New York Daily News reported Friday.

"Kanzi makes fire because he wants to. He used to watch the film 'Quest for Fire' when he was very young, which was about early man struggling to control fire," trust scientist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh said.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

'Chimera' Monkeys Created In Lab by Combining Several Embryos Into One

Roku and Hex from OHSU News on Vimeo.

The world's first monkeys to be created from the embryos of several individuals have been born at a US research centre.

Scientists at the Oregon National Primate Research Centre produced the animals, known as chimeras, by sticking together between three and six rhesus monkey embryos in the early stages of their development.

Three animals were born at the laboratory, a singleton and twins, and were said to be healthy, with no apparent birth defects following the controversial technique.

The chimeras have tissues and organs made up of cells that come from each of the contributing embryos. The mixtures of cells carried up to six distinct genomes.

"The cells never fuse, but they stay together and work together to form tissues and organs," said Shoukhrat Mitalipov, who led the research. "The possibilities for science are enormous."

Scientists named the singleton Chimero, and the twins Roku and Hex, meaning six in Japanese and Greek. Hex was born after merging six individual embryos, according to a report in the journal Cell. "To our knowledge, these infants are the world's first primate chimeras," the authors write.

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