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.
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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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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