Monday, December 29, 2014

Chimps Wear Blankets After Boiler Breaks At Sanctuary

Chimps were left shivering in blankets after their boiler packed in during the freezing weather.

Bosses at an animal centre near Swansea gave them the throws in a bid to keep them warm after the heaters broke down.

The monkeys felt the arctic chill as they waited for the £115,000 biomass boiler to be repaired.

So keepers at the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary, in Abercrave, gave them blankets.

Graham Garen, who runs the centre, said: "Warmth is key for the animals. They might get flu or pneumonia otherwise.
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"We've had to give them blankets to keep them warm while we wait for the boiler to be fixed."

The chimps have been feeling the cold since Christmas Day, when the pellet-powered boiler broke.

Full story here.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Monkey Gives First Aid To Friend Shocked By Wires

Onlookers at a train station in northern India watched in awe as a monkey came to the rescue of an injured friend -- resuscitating another monkey that had been shocked and knocked unconscious.

The injured monkey had fallen between the tracks, apparently after touching high-tension wires at the train station in the north Indian city of Kanpur.

His companion came to the rescue and was captured on camera lifting the friend's motionless body, shaking it, dipping it into a mud puddle and biting its head and skin -- working until the hurt monkey regained consciousness.

The first monkey, completely covered in mud, opened its eyes and began moving again.

Crowds of travelers watched the Sunday scene in amazement, filming and snapping pictures.

Full story here.

Monday, December 22, 2014

In Argentina, a Court Grants Sandra the Orangutan Basic Rights

The ape has spent the last 20 years in a zoo

An orangutan named Sandra has been granted certain legal rights by a court in Argentina.

Lawyers for Argentina’s Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (Afada) argued that Sandra was a “non-human person” and was being detained illegally in Buenos Aires’ zoo, the BBC reports.

The case rested on whether the court decided the orangutan was a “person” or a “thing” and after judges rejected the writ several times, they finally ruled the ape had rights that needed protecting.

In a similar case earlier this month, a New York court decided that a chimpanzee did not have legal personhood and therefore was not entitled to human rights.

If Sandra’s case isn’t appealed, the orangutan will live out her days enjoying greater freedom in a sanctuary in Brazil.

Full story here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chocolate-Fed Monkey Terrorizes Marseille Until Tasered

For several weeks the monkey had been provoking panic in Castellanne, a northern suburb of Marseille, La Provence newspaper reported.

At one point it even entered a primary school where “it caused bedlam and scratched some of the children” before heading to a senior school where it also left students frightened.

Worried residents have been bombarding police with calls to alert them to the presence of the monkey, that reportedly measured 80cm in height.

“We were given the location but by the time we turned up, it had disappeared. It happened every time,” a policeman told the local newspaper.

According to reports the monkey was abandoned among local youths, with whom it spent most of its time.

It was abused by some of the youths and rather than being fed appropriate food, it was kept on a diet of Kinder chocolate.

All of which could explain its aggressive attitude and why locals were making so many panicked phone calls to police.

Traps were set to try and catch the animal but to no avail.

Finally, after getting one distress call the police located the monkey but as they tried to detain it, the animal bit one of the officers.

So a Taser gun was brought out to neutralize it.

Full story here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wild Bonobo Is Seen Giving Birth, The First Time Such Behaviour Has Been Documented

A bonobo has been seen giving birth in the wild, the first time scientists have ever documented this most personal of moments occurring in the ape’s natural environment...

...During the birth event, which occurred at the Luikotale Bonobo Project field site, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the researchers discovered that wild bonobos do not give birth alone.

The new mother, a female called Luna, was surrounded by two other female bonobos offering companionship and support.

The birth also took place high up in a tree, rather than on the ground.

And shortly after the birth, the new mother and other females ate parts of the placenta.

Full story here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Happy Monkey Day 2014!

Happy Monkey Day! Once again, Monkey Day arrives. And once again, it's time to count down the most interesting, the craziest, the most profound monkey (and primate) news stories of 2013!


The only thing scarier than langur monkeys are men dressed as langur monkeys.

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 [Ctl C] + [Ctl V].
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 You say tomato, I say...let go of my tomato or I will gut you like a stuck pig!

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7. Monkey Brain Control Ties for 7th:

Coming soon, Call of Duty: Live Monkey Force One.

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 Don't worry Tommy, you can still be a pinball wizard.

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 [insert Mission Impossible theme song here]

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[inset bone joke here]
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I not an alcoholic, I'm just trying to evolve. 

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 I hate to say it, but I was sticking blades of grass in my ear before it was cool.

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 So, apes don't have rights, but monkeys own their pictures?  Sounds like the banana lobbyists are out of control!
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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!

And don’t forget, Monkey Day has chosen Story Book Farms to be the recipients of our digital love this year! We urge all Monkey Day celebrants and monkey lovers to please spend a minute and visit their website, “like” them on Facebook, if you have the means please donate to their IndieGoGo campaign:

Happy Monkey Day!

Friday, December 05, 2014

New York Court Refuses 'Legal Personhood' Of Tommy The Chimpanzee

The plaintiff in a landmark lawsuit seeking legal rights for a chimpanzee has lost his case—for now.

A New York appeals court this morning rejected the lawsuit, filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project, on behalf of Tommy, a 26-year-old chimp kept alone by his owners in an upstate warehouse.

The Nonhuman Rights Project argued that Tommy should be considered a person—in legal terms, an entity capable of having rights, and in his case one specific right: not to be wrongfully imprisoned.

“Petitioner requests that this Court enlarge the common-law definition of ‘person’ in order to afford legal rights to an animal,” wrote the judges in their decision. “We decline to do so.”

Attorney Steven Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project, said they will appeal the decision to New York’s highest court. “We think the court was wrong in some very fundamental ways,” he said.

Full story here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Study: Unlike People, Monkeys Aren't Fooled By Expensive Brands

In at least one respect, Capuchin monkeys are smarter than humans — they don’t assume a higher price tag means better quality, according to a new Yale study appearing in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology.

People consistently tend to confuse the price of a good with its quality. For instance, one study showed that people think a wine labeled with an expensive price tag tastes better than the same wine labeled with a cheaper price tag. In other studies, people thought a painkiller worked better when they paid a higher price for it.

The Yale study shows that monkeys don’t buy that premise, although they share other irrational behaviors with their human relatives.

“We know that capuchin monkeys share a number of our own economic biases. Our previous work has shown that monkeys are loss-averse, irrational when it comes to dealing with risk, and even prone to rationalizing their own decisions, just like humans,” said Laurie Santos, a psychologist at Yale University and senior author of the study. “But this is one of the first domains we’ve tested in which monkeys show more rational behavior than humans do.”

Full story here.

Ability To Consume Alcohol May Have Shaped Primate Evolution

Craving a stiff drink after the holiday weekend? Your desire to consume alcohol, as well as your body’s ability to break down the ethanol that makes you tipsy, dates back about 10 million years, researchers have discovered. The new finding not only helps shed light on the behavior of our primate ancestors, but also might explain why alcoholism—or even the craving for a single drink—exists in the first place.

“The fact that they could put together all this evolutionary history was really fascinating,” says Brenda Benefit, an anthropologist at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, who was not involved in the study.

Scientists knew that the human ability to metabolize ethanol—allowing people to consume moderate amounts of alcohol without getting sick—relies on a set of proteins including the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme ADH4. Although all primates have ADH4, which performs the crucial first step in breaking down ethanol, not all can metabolize alcohol; lemurs and baboons, for instance, have a version of ADH4 that’s less effective than the human one. Researchers didn’t know how long ago people evolved the more active form of the enzyme. Some scientists suspected it didn’t arise until humans started fermenting foods about 9000 years ago.

Matthew Carrigan, a biologist at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, and colleagues sequenced ADH4 proteins from 19 modern primates and then worked backward to determine the sequence of the protein at different points in primate history. Then they created copies of the ancient proteins coded for by the different gene versions to test how efficiently each metabolized ethanol. They showed that the most ancient forms of ADH4—found in primates as far back as 50 million years ago—only broke down small amounts of ethanol very slowly. But about 10 million years ago, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a common ancestor of humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas evolved a version of the protein that was 40 times more efficient at ethanol metabolism.

Full story here.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Seattle Neighborhood Embraces Monkey Day With Monkey Themed Decorations

The Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods hope an unusual holiday light display will draw visitors to the area. One-hundred-fifty LED monkeys are hanging inside and outside of businesses, and in the trees along Phinney and Greenwood Avenues. Members of the business association got a grant from the city to help pay for the materials. "Who doesn't love a monkey," organizer Mike Veitenhans said. Full story here. -----------------------------------------

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Monkeys Steer Wheelchairs With Their Brains, Raising Hope for Paralyzed People

Brain-machine interfaces have become a buzzword in recent years, triggering headlines when, for example, Brown University's John Donoghue's human patients drank coffee and picked up objects with robotic arms controlled by brain-implanted electrodes.

At the meeting, Nicolelis also presented research on two rhesus monkeys that had electrodes implanted deep in their brains that, with training, allowed the animals to steer a wheelchair using thought alone. The goal of that research is partly to help develop a "brain pacemaker" implant that would pick up clearer signals from thoughts to help control future robotic prosthetics.

Signals from deep in the brain are much easier for devices to read than ones picked up by electrical skin sensors on patient's skulls. Such implants made the monkeys relatively quick students at wheelchair driving. "They can reliably steer the wheelchair to get a grape," Nicolelis said. "They like grapes."

Full story here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Baby Gorilla Crushed By Door At San Francisco Zoo

The San Francisco Zoo's baby gorilla, Kabibe, died Friday after trying to dart through a closing hydraulic door.

The zoo describes the death as a "rare accident," according to the zoo's website.

The door's custom-made manual shut-off switch was working properly when tested after the death, reports The San Francisco Chronicle.

Kabibe was born in July 2013 into captivity and was among the six other gorillas living at the zoo.

Kabibe was one of the biggest draws for zoo visitors, according to the zoo website.

Her mother had not bonded with the baby at first, and Kabibe required four months of human care after her birth before she was introduced to her grandmother.

Full story here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chimps Caught in First Known Nighttime Crop Raids

Chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kibale National Park are supplementing their diet with maize from a plantation within the park’s borders. While crop raids are a well-known problem throughout the chimps’ range, these animals were filmed venturing into the fields in the dark of night—a first for chimpanzees.

Wildlife is often a problem for people living on the edges of parks and preserves. One study found that crop raids by chimpanzees and monkeys in Rwanda caused losses equivalent to 10 to 20 percent of a farmer’s income. Chimps have been recorded eating parts of 36 different crop species, from bananas and papayas to lemons and coffee. It seems little is off the menu for a hungry chimpanzee.

A crop raid, though, can be a dangerous activity for a chimp. While the animals can be scared off by throwing stones or banging pots, some people have resorted to harsher measures, killing chimps to deter potential thieves. With chimpanzees already dwindling in numbers because of habitat loss, poaching and disease, the endangered animals hardly need another source of human conflict.

Full story here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vaccinate gorillas against Ebola, Gorilla Doctors recommend

Veterinarians who care for wild gorillas want government permission to give the endangered animals an experimental Ebola vaccine in case of a nearby viral outbreak.

Mike Cranfield, the Canadian co-director of the non-profit group Gorilla Doctors, says its member are "very, very concerned" about the risk to gorillas of Ebola.

The human outbreak centred in West Africa has killed nearly 4,500 people, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.

But previous outbreaks have killed tens of thousands of gorillas and chimpanzees — a 2002 outbreak at Lossie Sanctuary in northwest Congo alone killed 5,000 gorillas, or 93 per cent of the population at the sanctuary, at the time, a 2006 study reported.

"It's so devastating," said Cranfield. "Where people had gone in before and there was high numbers of great apes ... now they go in and it's completely silent. They can't find any."

Full story here.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Dramatic Gorilla Fight Over A Tomato Caught On Film

It's a scene normally reserved for wildlife documentaries and blockbuster films.

But three adult male gorillas were captured in an astonishing display of animal instinct - as they fought over breakfast at a Devon zoo.

Kicking and hitting one another with their fangs in full view, the mammals stood upright as they carried out their hungry scuffle to the amazement of visitors.

The stand-off was captured by a visiting schoolboy and wildlife enthusiast after keepers tossed vegetables into the animals' enclosure at Paignton Zoo.

Full story here.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Chimps with tools: Wild ape culture caught on camera

Researchers have captured the spread of a new type of tool use in a wild population of chimps.

They say this is the first clear evidence of wild chimpanzees developing a new culture.

As the team filmed the animals at a field station in Uganda, they noticed that some of them started to make a new type of leaf sponge - something the animals use to drink.

This new behaviour soon spread throughout the group.
Chimp using a leaf sponge (c) Catherine Hobaiter Leaf sponges allow wild chimps to drink from watering holes

The findings are published in the journal Plos Biology.

Lead researcher Dr Catherine Hobaiter, from the University of St Andrews, explained that chimps make and use folded up "little sponges that they dip into ponds and then suck the water out".

"We were insanely lucky," she told BBC News. "We saw two new versions of this tool use emerge in the chimps [we were watching]."

Full story here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chimps Raised As Pets And Performers Suffer Long-Term Social Handicaps, Study

It goes without saying that a chimpanzee raised to interact with humans will act differently than other chimps. But according to new research, those effects can last for decades after a chimp is moved to a healthy sanctuary — and being the pet of a loving family (which is legal in most states) could actually be worse for the animals than working as performers.

In a new study published in PeerJ, researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo attempt to move beyond categorizing chimps as either "human reared" or "mother reared." Instead, they looked at a full spectrum of chimp vs. human interaction. On one end of the spectrum, chimps were completely isolated from members of their own species for the first four years of life, living instead with humans. On the other, they had little or no interaction with humans.

It wasn't all bad news: Surprisingly, the researchers didn't find increased aggression or anxiety in the chimps towards the human end of the spectrum. But they saw big differences in social grooming behavior (that is, where chimps groom each other), which scientists believe to be of incredible importance in chimpanzee communities.

Full story here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Indian Villagers Shave Their Heads To Mourn Dead Monkey

The macaque drowned when it fell into a pond after being chased by dogs.

Afraid that its death may bring them bad luck, the villagers held a funeral procession and cremated the animal according to Hindu rituals. Another 700 villagers shaved their beards off.

Monkeys are considered sacred by Hindus and there are temples dedicated to monkey god Hanuman across India.

Hanuman is generally depicted with a human body, a red monkey's face and a tail and his followers believe that worshipping him will liberate them from fear and danger.

The dead monkey was one of a pair that lived near a small Hanuman temple in Dakachya village in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, village resident Mithun Patel said.

It drowned on 2 September and its body was discovered by the villagers the next day.

"The village elders said a monkey dying inside the village is very inauspicious. We were afraid it might bring us bad luck, a natural calamity," Mr Patel said.

"So we decided to propitiate the monkey's soul to ensure nothing untoward happened in our village."

After the monkey was cremated, the local men shaved their heads and beards as a sign of mourning.

Full story here.

Lethal Violence in Chimps Occurs Naturally, Study Suggests

Are chimpanzees naturally violent to one another, or has the intrusion of humans into their environment made them aggressive?

A study published Wednesday in Nature is setting off a new round of debate on the issue.

The study’s authors argue that a review of all known cases of when chimpanzees or bonobos in Africa killed members of their own species shows that violence is a natural part of chimpanzee behavior and not a result of actions by humans that push chimpanzee aggression to lethal attacks. The researchers say their analysis supports the idea that warlike violence in chimpanzees is a natural behavior that evolved because it could provide more resources or territory to the killers, at little risk.

But critics say the data shows no such thing, largely because the measures of human impact on chimpanzees are inadequate.

While the study is about chimpanzees, it is also the latest salvo in a long argument about the nature of violence in people.

Full story here.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

India monkey showers people with stolen banknotes in Shimla

A monkey in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh has rained down banknotes on people, reports say.

Surprised holidaymakers in the scenic pine forest of Shimla, the state capital, ran around, collecting the falling notes for nearly an hour on Sunday, eyewitnesses said.

Reports said the simian stole 10,000 rupees ($165; £100) from a nearby home.

The monkey had entered the house to look for food, but when it did not find anything to eat, it took the money.

Full story here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Koko The Gorilla Mourns Robin Williams

According to a Foundation spokesperson, when the calls regarding Williams' death began to come into the facility, Koko approached Foundation co-founder Dr. Penny Patterson "with an inquiring look on her face."

Dr. Patterson told Koko that "we have lost a dear friend, Robin Williams," a spokesperson said. Later in the day, after hearing another person break down in tears, Koko signed "CRY LIP," withdrew, and "became very somber, with her head bowed and her lip quivering," as seen in the photo below.

Full story here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wikipedia Refuses To Delete Photo As 'Monkey Owns It'

Wikimedia, the organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to remove one of his images which is used online without his permission, claiming that because a monkey pressed the shutter button it owns the copyright.

British nature photographer David Slater was in Indonesia in 2011 attempting to get the perfect image of a crested black macaque when one of the animals came up to investigate his equipment, hijacked a camera and took hundreds of selfies.

Many of them were blurry and some were pointed at the jungle floor, but among them were a handful of fantastic images - including a selfie taken by a grinning macaque which made headlines around the world and brought Mr Slater his 15 minutes of fame.

"They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button," he said at the time. "The sound got his attention and he kept pressing it. At first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back - it was amazing to watch.

"He must have taken hundreds of pictures by the time I got my camera back, but not very many were in focus. He obviously hadn't worked that out yet."

But after appearing on websites, newspapers, magazines and television shows around the world, Mr Slater is now facing a legal battle with Wikimedia after the organisation added the image to its collection of royalty-free images online. The Wikimedia Commons is a collection of 22,302,592 images and videos that are free to use by anyone online, and editors have included Mr Slater's image among its database.

The Gloucestershire-based photographer now claims that the decision is jeopardising his income as anyone can take the image and publish it for free, without having to pay him a royalty. He complained To Wikimedia that he owned the copyright of the image, but a recent transparency report from the group, which details all the removal requests it has received, reveals that editors decided that the monkey itself actually owned the copyright because it was the one that pressed the shutter button.

Full story here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

India Hires Men In Ape Suits To Drive Away Parliament's Monkeys

The Indian government is hiring men to pose as menacing langur monkeys to scare off the hundreds of macaques terrorising MPs and staff around its parliament and central government buildings.

M Venkiah Naidu, the urban development minister, told MPs on Thursday that 40 young people had been hired to disguise themselves as langurs - India’s bigger, predatory monkeys - to frighten away the macaques.

If the ape-men failed to rid the capital’s administrative centre of the monkey menace then marksmen armed with rubber bullets could be deployed.

The announcement reflects growing frustration at the continuing presence of macaque monkeys in the city centre and the terror and damage they cause.

The roam freely over the vast open lawns of India Gate, and assail government buildings where they chew through internet and telephone cables, attack staff for food, and occasionally jump in through the windows and pace the corridors of power.

Full story here.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Japanese Monkeys' Abnormal Blood Linked To Fukushima Radioactive Disaster

Wild monkeys in the Fukushima region of Japan have blood abnormalities linked to the radioactive fall-out from the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster, according to a new scientific study that may help increase the understanding of radiation on human health.

The Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) were found to have low white and red blood cell levels and low haemoglobin, which the researchers say could make them more prone to infectious diseases.

But critics of the study say the link between the abnormal blood tests and the radiation exposure of the monkeys remains unproven and that the radiation doses may have been too small to cause the effect.

The scientists compared 61 monkeys living 70km (44 miles) from the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with 31 monkeys from the Shimokita Penisula, over 400km (249 miles) from Fukushima. The Fukushima monkeys had low blood counts and radioactive caesium in their bodies, related to caesium levels in the soils where they lived. No caesium was detected in the Shimokita troop.

Professor Shin-ichi Hayama, at the Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Tokyo, told the Guardian that during Japan’s snowy winters the monkeys feed on tree buds and bark, where caesium has been shown to accumulate at high concentrations.

“This first data from non-human primates — the closest taxonomic relatives of humans — should make a notable contribution to future research on the health effects of radiation exposure in humans,” he said. The work, which ruled out disease or malnutrition as a cause of the low blood counts, is published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

Full story here.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Researchers Create Glossary Of Gestures Used By Wild Chimpanzees

For the first time, scientists from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland have decoded the meaning behind the various gestures that chimpanzees use to communicate with one another, observing more than 80 wild Ugandan primates in order to compile a glossary of their hand and body movements.

Writing in the July 2 edition of the journal Current Biology, St. Andrews primatologists Dr. Catherine Hobaiter and Professor Richard Byrne explained that they monitored wild chimpanzees in the rainforests of the African nation and discovered that the creatures use a total of 66 gestures to intentionally communicate 19 different and unique meanings.

According to Tom Brooks-Pollock of The Telegraph, among the gestures detected by Hobaiter and Byrne included tapping another chimp in order to ask them to stop doing something, flirting by nibbling on a leaf, making a flinging motion with the hand to ask another chimp to move away, and raising an arm in order to ask for an object.

The study authors said their findings confirm the long-held notion that the creatures most closely related to humans biologically truly do have a purpose when they communicate with each other. While experts had known that they used gestures to communicate, this is the first study to successfully figure out what they are saying.

Full story here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Monkeys Believe In Winning Streaks, Study Shows

Humans have a well-documented tendency to see winning and losing streaks in situations that, in fact, are random. But scientists disagree about whether the "hot-hand bias" is a cultural artifact picked up in childhood or a predisposition deeply ingrained in the structure of our cognitive architecture.

Now in the first study in non-human primates of this systematic error in decision making, researchers find that monkeys also share our unfounded belief in winning and losing streaks. The results suggests that the penchant to see patterns that actually don't exist may be inherited—an evolutionary adaptation that may have provided our ancestors a selective advantage when foraging for food in the wild, according to lead author Tommy Blanchard, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

The cognitive bias may be difficult to override even in situations that are truly random. This inborn tendency to feel that we are on a roll or in a slump may help explain why gambling can be so alluring and why the stock market is so prone to wild swings, said coauthor Benjamin Hayden, assistant professor brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

Full story here.

Chimpanzees Prefer African, Indian Beats over Western, Japanese Music

While preferring silence to music from the West, chimpanzees apparently like to listen to the different rhythms of music from Africa and India, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Our objective was not to find a preference for different cultures' music. We used cultural music from Africa, India and Japan to pinpoint specific acoustic properties," said study coauthor Frans de Waal, PhD, of Emory University. "Past research has focused only on Western music and has not addressed the very different acoustic features of non-Western music. While nonhuman primates have previously indicated a preference among music choices, they have consistently chosen silence over the types of music previously tested."

Previous research has found that some nonhuman primates prefer slower tempos, but the current findings may be the first to show that they display a preference for particular rhythmic patterns, according to the study. "Although Western music, such as pop, blues and classical, sound different to the casual listener, they all follow the same musical and acoustic patterns. Therefore, by testing only different Western music, previous research has essentially replicated itself," the authors wrote. The study was published in APA's Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.

When African and Indian music was played near their large outdoor enclosures, the chimps spent significantly more time in areas where they could best hear the music. When Japanese music was played, they were more likely to be found in spots where it was more difficult or impossible to hear the music. The African and Indian music in the experiment had extreme ratios of strong to weak beats, whereas the Japanese music had regular strong beats, which is also typical of Western music.

"Chimpanzees may perceive the strong, predictable rhythmic patterns as threatening, as chimpanzee dominance displays commonly incorporate repeated rhythmic sounds such as stomping, clapping and banging objects," said de Waal.

Full story here.

Facial Features of Old World Monkeys Evolved to Prevent Interbreeding

Old World monkeys have undergone a remarkable evolution in facial appearance as a way of avoiding interbreeding with closely related and geographically proximate species, researchers from New York University and the University of Exeter have found. Their research provides the best evidence to date for the role of visual cues as a barrier to breeding across species.

“Evolution produces adaptations that help animals thrive in a particular environment, and over time these adaptations lead to the evolution of new species,” explains James Higham, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Anthropology and the senior author of the study, which appears in the journal Nature Communications. “A key question is what mechanisms keep closely related species that overlap geographically from inter-breeding, so that they are maintained as separate species.

“Our findings offer evidence for the use of visual signals to help ensure species recognition: species may evolve to look distinct specifically from the other species they are at risk of inter-breeding with. In other words, how you end up looking is a function of how those around you look. With the primates we studied, this has a purpose: to strengthen reproductive isolation between populations.”

Full story here.

Chimpanzees Observed Making A Fashion Statement -- Sticking Blades Of Grass In Their Ears

“Our observation is quite unique in the sense that nothing seems to be communicated by it,” says study author Edwin van Leeuwen, a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute in The Netherlands.

To figure out if this was really a tradition, and not just chimpanzees sticking grass in their ears at random, van Leeuwen and his colleagues spent a year observing four chimp groups in Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust, a sanctuary in Zambia. Only one troop performed the grass-in-ear behavior, although all of the chimps lived in the same grassy territory. There’s no genetic or ecological factors, the scientists believe, that would account for this behavior -- only culture.

Lydia Luncz, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, who was not involved with the research, agrees. This study shows how the chimpanzees who learned to put grass in their ears did so through the “natural transmission” of new behavior, she says.

The cultural quirk first popped up in 2010 when a chimpanzee, named Julie, was spotted sporting a long-stemmed piece of grass.

Full story here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Study: Human Ancestors Got Herpes From Chimps

Adults today are more likely to have herpes — oral or genital — than not. But where did this widespread disease come from?

To answer that question, you’ll have to go back millions of years, to a time before we were human.

New genomic analysis has found that oral herpes may have been around since before our split with chimpanzees happened about 6 million years ago. The virus then branched out and followed the evolution of hominids to become oral herpes, or herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1).

“The ancestor of all monkeys and apes had the herpes virus,” said study author and virologist Joel Wertheim of the University of California at San Diego. “When the host species lineage started to split, the viruses also formed new lineages.”

The virus responsible for genital herpes hit our ancestors later, likely jumping from proto-chimps to a now-extinct hominid — either Homo habilis or Homo erectus — about 1.6 million years ago. The ancient virus eventually gave rise to what is now known as herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) in humans, commonly spread through sexual contact.

Because the chimpanzee herpes simplex virus found its way back into our lineage, we are the only primate species known to be infected with two distinct herpes simplex viruses. But how the transmission occurred from primate-to-hominid all those years ago remains a mystery.

“We can’t say whether the interaction that led to cross-transmission was physical aggression or sexual contact,” Wertheim said. “We just don’t know, but both are possible.”

Alternate means could have been through hominids hunting and eating the meat of proto-chimps or living with them in close quarters, said virologist Alberto Severini of the University of Manitoba, who was not involved in the research.

Full story here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chimps Outsmart Humans At Simple Strategy Game

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found that chimpanzees at the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute are consistently better at humans when playing simple competitive games.

In one game, called the Inspection Game, chimps and humans played a variation on hide-and-seek. In pairs of their own species (humans and chimps did not directly compete with each other for the study), the players sit back-to-back, each with a computer screen in front of them. After pushing a circle on the screen, they have to choose one of two boxes, right or left. They are then shown their opponent's selection.

Each player has a different role. The "mismatchers" have to choose the opposite of their opponent's selection, while the "matchers" have to choose the same as their opponent's selection. Each game lasted 200 rounds, and players that "won" a round were given a reward. In order to consistently win, players had to be able to anticipate their opponent's choices.

In game theory, there is a concept known as the Nash equilibrium. This means the balance that can be achieved when each player knows their opponent's strategies, but has nothing to gain by changing their own strategy. The 16 Japanese students participating in the study performed as expected: slow to learn their opponents' strategies, and not reaching the Nash equilibrium.

The six chimpanzees, however, learned the game and their opponents' moves rapidly, very nearly reaching the Nash equilibrium, even when the researchers swapped the chimps' roles and introduced higher rewards for specific choices. As the game changed, the chimps changed their strategies accordingly.

Full story here.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Researchers Control Monkey’s Choice by Activating a Brain Region

According to researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), activating a particular region of the brain affects the decision-making progress. The team was able to change monkeys' choices between two images by artificially stimulating the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which consists of a group of neurons located at the base of the midbrain.

"Previous studies had correlated increased activity in the primate VTA with positive events experienced by the animal but could not prove that VTA activity actually caused behavioral changes," stated study author, Wim Vanduffel, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and head of the Laboratory for Neuro- and Psychophysiology at the University of Leuven. "Studies in rodents have shown that artificially manipulating VTA activity strongly influences behavior, and our work has bridged the gap between rodent and primate."

In this study, the team placed microelectrodes in the VTAs of macaque monkeys using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging as a guide. In the beginning of the experiment, the monkeys were showed two images. The researchers recorded which image the monkeys preferred by observing their eye movements. The monkeys had been trained to look initially at a white square and then at either picture. The picture that the monkeys looked at most frequently was considered the favored one.

After knowing which image the monkeys preferred, the researchers showed the monkeys the picture pairs once again. This time when the monkeys looked at the less favored picture, the team administered mild stimulation to the VTA. The researchers noted that the stimulation caused the monkeys to change their preference. The stimulation was then applied when the monkeys glanced at their preferred image. The monkeys' preference changed back to normal.

Full story here.

Ebola Vaccine For Chimps Could Help Save Wild Populations

Researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center have conducted a vaccine trial on chimpanzees that could help protect endangered wild apes from deadly infectious diseases, such as the Ebola virus.

It's believed to be the first time that a vaccine intended for apes – rather than humans – has been tested on captive chimpanzees. Results of the trial are published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Vaccines haven't been used to fight outbreaks of diseases in chimpanzees and gorillas because of concerns about their safety, according to the journal article.

But Joe Simmons, NIRC director, said high mortality rates have made many conservationists more receptive to the potential protection of vaccines.

"Preserving endangered chimpanzee and gorilla species is a common cause for conservationists and medical researchers," he said.

NIRC researchers tested a virus-like particle vaccine, which contains a small amount of viral proteins but is incapable of replicating. "The vaccine doesn't cause infection, but it does cause an immune response to those proteins that can protect against infection," Simmons explained.

Full story here.

Six Quarantined Monkeys Die At Oregon Zoo

Six monkeys died of unknown causes while in quarantine at the Oregon Zoo.

The cotton-top tamarins, a species of small New World monkey, were part of a group of nine that arrived at the zoo on May 22.

"It's sad," said zoo visitor Maria Maarigal. "The Oregon Zoo should have taken care of them properly, how can this happen?"

The remaining three monkeys, including a 5-week-old baby, appear to be in good health, according to zoo workers. They are still being closely monitored.

The deaths were discovered by a veterinary staff member early Sunday morning. Initial necropsy results were inconclusive, according to a zoo statement.

"We are shocked and heartbroken," said zoo veterinarian Dr. Tim Storms. "We are really trying to get to the bottom of it. Certainly, I have seen animals die in unfortunate situations before, but never six animals all at once like that."
Tissue samples were submitted to a pathologist for further analysis. Zoo officials hope to receive those results within a few weeks.

"At this point it could be anything, from exposure to something to disease or even acclimation problems, we really don't know," said Storms.

Full story here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Tenn. Zoo Gorilla Recovering from Surgery After Femur Fracture

A gorilla at the Knoxville Zoo is up and about, just one day after he had surgery to repair a broken leg.

Wanto, a 37 year old silverback gorilla, broke his right femur in what zoo officials called a "freak accident" on Monday, while climbing bars in the indoor courtyard of his exhibit. His keepers think he may have been trying to avoid the three female gorillas in his group who like to tease him.

The surgery was a little risky, since he's considered an "old man" in gorilla years and has an existing heart condition, but zoo officials wanted to give him the best chance to get better.

Full story here.

Stem Cells Made From Skin Safely Grow New Bone in Monkeys for the First Time

Researchers have shown for the first time that it is possible to grow new bone from stem cells made from an animal's own skin cells. While this is not the first successful stem cell therapy tested on animals closely related to humans, it offers another potential source of stem cells for transplantation—the individual’s own adult cells.

In the new study, published online today in Cell Reports, researchers chose a type of monkey called the rhesus macaque as a model for how the technique might work in people. These primates are physiologically similar to humans, especially when it comes to their immune system and how it reacts to foreign bodies.

Researchers harvested skin cells from the monkeys and then genetically reprogrammed them into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells. Unlike adult cells, which are committed to being a specific type of cell (such as skin, bone, or heart-tissue cells), these so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have the ability to mature into any other type of cell.

Full story here.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Stolen Blackpool Monkeys: Four Found But Baby Missing

Four monkeys stolen from a zoo in a "planned and pre-meditated" break-in have been found.

Blackpool Zoo in Lancashire said two female cotton-top tamarins and two male emperor tamarins had been recovered in Yorkshire. However a baby tamarin which was also taken had not been found.

Raiders cut a hole in the perimeter fence of the zoo and removed the locks from two separate monkey enclosures on Tuesday.

They took two female and one baby cotton-top tamarin, which are a critically endangered species, and two male emperor tamarins.

But the zoo said the four recovered monkeys were now safely back at the zoo.

Full story here.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Five Rare Monkeys Stolen In Blackpool Zoo Night Raid

A group of rare monkeys stolen from Blackpool zoo have prompted police to issue an air and sea ports warning amid fears they will be smuggled out of Britain and sold.

Five monkeys have been taken in what police said appeared to be a "planned and premeditated" break-in.

The thieves cut a hole in the perimeter fence of the zoo and removed the locks from two separate monkey enclosures.

Two female and one baby cotton-top tamarin, which are a critically endangered species, and two male emperor tamarins were stolen overnight on Tuesday.

Police believe they were targeted specifically and their details have been circulated to all ports and airports in case the thieves try to take them abroad.

Full story here.

Stem Cell Treatment Repairs Damaged Hearts In Monkeys

Scientists have successfully repaired damaged monkey hearts by injecting new heart cells made from human stem cells, paving the way for a trial in humans before the end of the decade.

Researchers now hope that the treatment could give patients a new lease of life after massive heart attacks that cause scarring and ultimately heart failure.

"When human embryonic stem cells were first discovered, this is just the sort of therapy people hoped they would lead to. We are optimistic, but we are also cautious," said Charles Murry, who led the team at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The heart is one of the poorest organs in the body at repairing itself when it sustains damage. After a heart attack, muscle tissue in the heart dies off, and is replaced a month or so later with scar tissue. This does not contract like normal heart tissue, so the heart is weakened and struggles to pump blood around the body.

Full story here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

First-Ever Video of Critically Endangered Myanmar Snub-Nosed Monkeys

This first-ever video of the species was captured by Kaung Haung, a member of the local Law Waw tribe in Burma. He works with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), a nongovernmental organization, to monitor camera traps set up to photograph the monkeys. He was walking through the jungle to check on the contraptions when he heard something above him. Fortunately, he had a video camera with him. As an FFI press release recounts, “Full of excitement and with shaky hands he filmed the large band of snub-nosed monkeys leaping through the canopy up above him.”

Full story here.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Injections Providing Protection Against AIDS in Monkeys, Studies Find

Researchers are reporting that injections of long-lasting AIDS drugs protected monkeys for weeks against infection, a finding that could lead to a major breakthrough in preventing the disease in humans.

Two studies by different laboratory groups each found 100 percent protection in monkeys that got monthly injections of antiretroviral drugs, and there was evidence that a single shot every three months might work just as well.

If the findings can be replicated in humans, they have the potential to overcome a major problem in AIDS prevention: that many people fail to take their antiretroviral pills regularly.

A preliminary human trial is to start late this year, said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, an AIDS expert at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, but a larger trial that could lead to a treatment in humans may still be some years away.

Full story here.