Friday, February 28, 2003


Scientists Find That Apes and Monkeys Provide Needed Help in Understanding Human Genome

BERKELEY, Calif., Feb 26, 2003 (ASCRIBE NEWS via COMTEX) -- Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in Walnut Creek, Calif., and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a powerful new technique for deciphering biological information encoded in the human genome.

Called "phylogenetic shadowing," this technique enables scientists to make meaningful comparisons between DNA sequences in the human genome and sequences in the genomes of apes, monkeys, and other nonhuman primates. With phylogenetic shadowing, scientists can now study biological traits that are unique to members of the primate family....

..."There is only about a five percent difference between the human and the baboon genomes. When you run comparisons between the two, all of the sequences look just about the same. We can't distinguish function from nonfunctional sequences."

Rubin and his colleagues overcame this lack of distinction by comparing segments of the human genome to segments of not one but anywhere from five to 15 different genomes of nonhuman primates, including chimpanzees and gorillas, orangutans, baboons, and Old World and New World monkeys. By sequencing specific segments within each of the genomes of the different primates being analyzed, the researchers found enough small differences from genome to genome in the nonhuman primates that could be combined to create a phylogenetic "shadow" which could then be compared to the human genome....

Thursday, February 27, 2003


Maneka gifts waterbed to injured chimp

Former union minister and animal activist Maneka Gandhi on Thursday donated a waterbed, for the speedy recovery of an injured chimpanzee at the Veterinary Hospital near the Arignar Anna Zoological Park at the suburban Vandalur.

The ape, one of the four chimps rescued from circus, was weak and has been shifted to the hospital....


Arrests in India chimp probe

Four attendants at a zoo in the southern Indian city of Mysore have been arrested following an inquiry into the death of a popular chimpanzee.
Meena, who was 33, died last week after her gangrenous arm was amputated.

Police began investigations after zoo officials suspected foul play in the chimp's death....

Tuesday, February 25, 2003


Why Did UWA Take On Sick Chimpanzees?

THE Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) recommended the killing of three chimps imported into the country from Tanzania five months ago.

However, the Jane Goodall Institute and the livestock department under the Ministry of Agriculture refused to comply. They only agreed after one of them critically injured its keeper....

The two apes were moved to a quarantine camp in late November after the livestock department decided that the animals should stay in the country.

Their new home was two containers re-inforced with metallic bars....

Unfortunately, the chimp keepers forgot to lock the door of the container and the apes escaped on Saturday, February 8, 2003. Dosi, the renegade chimp, was later traced and killed in a shower of bullets.

Kipala was put to rest an hour after the bullets felled Dosi because he had become traumatised....

Monday, February 24, 2003

Remember when VaxGen's president said "I'm confident from the chimpanzees that the vaccine will be efficacious"?


1st AIDS Vaccine in Large Test Found to Be Mostly Ineffective

The first AIDS vaccine tested in a large population of people at high risk for the disease has proven to be largely ineffective, according to data released early today by the vaccine's manufacturer.

AIDSVAX reduced the rate of infection 3.8 percent in people receiving the vaccine, compared with those who received placebo injections, said VaxGen, based in Brisbane, Calif....

Sunday, February 23, 2003


Uproar over Internet market for zoo animals

The business of selling exotic and endangered animals has escalated from an underground network of backyard deals into a multibillion-dollar industry in which chimpanzees can be ordered over the Internet.

The booming exotic pet trade in many cases can be traced to one of America's most family-friendly institutions -- the local zoo -- and zoo professionals and other experts are so concerned that they have formed a new national coalition to expose the abuses and protect the animals.

Since the 1970s, zoos have declared thousands of lions, tigers, bears and other creatures "surplus" because of over-breeding, inadequate funding or simply because the animals failed to wow visitors as they once did. Some zoos have sold the animals to brokers, who funnel them to breeders, hunting ranches, research facilities, circuses, auctions or individuals looking for the latest exotic pet.

But in recent years, experts say, the Internet has brought the industry in from the wild -- and right into the living room.

With a click of a mouse, one can buy a camel, white tiger, chimpanzee, penguin and any other animal or reptile....

The Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition, to be launched Tuesday, will put together a national database on exotic animals kept as pets; support animal welfare legislation; fund animal sanctuaries; and educate the public....

Experts say the industry thrives because of inconsistent or nonexistent state and federal laws governing the sale and use of exotic animals....

Saturday, February 22, 2003


Sexy gala gets wild to raise funds
Calgary Herald

...And there were numerous sexual facts on cards for people to read while strolling, such as:...

- The male chimpanzee has been known to copulate with as many as eight females in 15 minutes....

Bubbles was actually discarded to an animal trainer's ranch.


Jackson fights back with footage
Journalist Martin Bashir lavished praise on Michael Jackson and the "spiritual" quality of his Neverland ranch in video footage shown on U.S. television.

...Some of the footage showed Jackson's eccentricity, including how he allowed his former constant companion, chimpanzee Bubbles, to eat at his table and use his toilet.

"He would go himself," the singer said, before explaining that his former pet is now living in a shelter after becoming "dangerous" and confrontational in his adolescence....

Of course, the chimpanzee donor died immediately.


Heart transplant pioneer dies at 84

Dr. James Hardy braved a storm of criticism in 1964 when he pioneered the world's first heart transplant — chimpanzee to human — at the University of Mississippi Medical Center....

Hardy's surgical team at the University of Mississippi Medical Center transplanted the heart of a chimpanzee into a dying man. The patient lived for 90 minutes following the surgery....

Friday, February 21, 2003


Indian zoo probes chimp death

[Photo] Meena died after her arm was amputated

Officials at an Indian zoo are investigating possible foul play in the death of a popular chimpanzee.
Meena, who was 33, died at Mysore zoo on Wednesday after doctors amputated her gangrenous arm.

A complaint has been lodged with the police and an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of Meena's agonising death.

The zoo wants to know if keepers played a role in her demise, and believes a person or persons is trying to damage its reputation....

Wednesday, February 19, 2003


Another Chimp Killed

By Gerald Tenywa
A team of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) rangers, the Police and private security guards has killed another chimpanzee.
The New Vision has established that Kipala, one of the three male chimps imported from Tanzania last July, was killed an hour after the renegade chimp, Dosi, was shot dead.
Dosi, who went on rampage a week ago after severely injuring his keeper, was hunted down by the team whose mission was to “shoot him on sight.”...

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Why aren't these babies' mothers allowed to raise them?


Zoo breeds rare ape

[Photo] The zoo has been breeding bonobos for six years

A zoo in the East Midlands is raising a rare breed of ape that is on the verge of extinction in Africa.
The Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, has bred five of the bonobos - the only ones born in the UK....

[Photo] The benobos are hand-fed by the staff, including Molly
[Photo] The youngsters are the only bonobos in the UK
[Photo] "We buy the animals presents at Christmas and they get very excited"
[Photo] The stars of the Brooke Bond tea adverts were chimps raised at the zoo.
[Photo] The chimpanzees love to ride bicycles
[Photo] The primates have comfortable enclosures at the zoo
[Photo] Molly Badham has appeared on Blue Peter with her animals

Sunday, February 16, 2003


Interstellar Give-and-Take: The Idea of Sharing

...Some basic notions of reciprocity seem as familiar to chimpanzees as they do to humans. When Chimp A grooms Chimp B, the giving primate might expect payback at dinner time. And often, the altruistic chimp gets what’s expected. (There are some constraints: chimps seem to forget their past benefactors if more than a couple hours pass between a grooming session and the next meal. For reciprocation, it’s not enough to realize that someone has done you a favor—you also need to remember it.)...



Chimpanzees could die out in 15 years because of a sharp rise in hunting, says expert Dr Jane Goodall, who worked on the BBC's Life of Mammals.


TV Programs Probe Parallels in Animal, Human Mating

...When it comes to great apes, the resemblance to human behavior can be quite startling; it all comes down to how to make friends, get a date, win favors, and form alliances.

Richard Wrangham, a biologist who has worked for many years in Africa studying chimpanzees, is interested in how human social behavior evolved. It's not surprising that the social behavior of humans and chimps is similar, he said.

"The thing we evolved from about 5 million years ago was very like a chimpanzee; it was big and black and hairy, it was the size of a chimp," and chimpanzees today have many of the primitive characteristics of early hominids, he said....

Thursday, February 13, 2003


Rights From Wrongs
A movement to grant legal protection to animals is gathering forces
by Jim Motavalli - February 13, 2003

Does a pig packed in a tiny factory cage waiting to be killed have any rights in America? Should it have?

And what about the chimpanzee, which shares 99 percent of its active DNA with humans? Should anyone be allowed to "own" an animal with so many of our own attributes, including the ability to reason, use tools and respond to language? Isn't that like slavery?...

In 2003, however, a new movement is gathering force that is trying to afford some genuine legal rights for animals. Animal rights are back on the agenda, at least partly due to the release of the new book Dominion by an unlikely author, White House speechwriter Matthew Scully.... Scully describes the Animal Welfare Act as "a collection of hollow injunctions, broad loopholes and light penalties when there are any at all."...

The Great Ape Project, founded in 1993 "to include the nonhuman great apes within the community of equals," giving them fundamental protections of life, liberty and bodily integrity, has won its first great victory in New Zealand, which in 1999 banned most experimentation on "non-human hominids." There are loopholes that allow for testing if it is "in the best interests of the non-human hominid."

Peter Singer, cofounder of the Great Ape Project, a professor at Princeton and a pioneer in animal rights philosophy, said that the New Zealand law "may be a small step forward for great apes, but it is nevertheless historic. It's the first time that a parliament has voted in favor of changing the status of a group of animals so dramatically that the animal cannot be treated as a research tool."...

Another influential voice arguing for legal protection for animals is attorney Steven Wise, a former Harvard animal rights lecturer, a speaker at the chimpanzee symposium and the author of Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals and Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights. Wise makes what he calls the "liberty" argument. He says that some nonhuman animals, including great apes, have "a kind of autonomy that judges should easily recognize as sufficient for legal rights." He also makes an "equality" argument, pointing out that children born severely retarded and dependent are automatically granted full human rights, and that "the principle of equality requires us to give [the same rights] to a bonobo who has high levels of cognition and a great deal of mental complexity."...

And then there's Rutgers law professor Gary Francione, author of such books as Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement. Until 1999, Francione directed the Rutgers-based Animal Rights Law Clinic, but he closed it down, claiming that "the American animal rights movement has collapsed" and become reformist, rather than radical.

Francione takes on nearly everyone. Though he once served as attorney for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, he is now openly critical of the group for not being radical enough.

Francione compares the laws governing animal ownership to those regulating slavery. "They're structurally similar in that they favor the owner's interests, as the slave laws did," he says. "If you examine anti-cruelty laws carefully, what you see is that the laws don't provide any more protection than is necessary for efficient exploitation of the animal. It's crazy to argue that we're ever going to get significant legal change from common law courts. If Congress passed a law making factory farming illegal, for instance, it would drive up the price of meat and people would be in the streets."

The result, he says, is very small gains. He cites PETA's celebration of the Burger King veggie burger, and Peter Singer's favorable comments about McDonald's decision to give battery hens more cage space. "Maybe Peter finds that thrilling; I do not," Francione says. "It is a clear indication that welfarist reform is useless."

Francione also denigrates the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, signed by President Clinton in 2000, which requires retired laboratory chimpanzees to be provided with retirement shelters. "The law says the chimps can't be killed -- unless the secretary of agriculture says it's necessary to do so," Francione says....

Wednesday, February 12, 2003


Chimp On the Loose
Gerald Tenywa

A CHIMPANZEE has escaped from a quarantine facility at the Veterinary Training Institute, Entebbe, after severely injuring its keeper.

It was one of the three chimps imported from Tanzania last August.

They were suspected to be suffering from tuberculosis and a quarantine was imposed on them for fear that they would spread the disease to other chimps and human beings.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) on Saturday dispatched a team of rangers to shoot the animal on sight. It is suspected to be around Kigungu landing site or near the Entebbe International Airport.

UWA executive director Dr. Arthur Mugisha said stakeholders in wildlife conservation had agreed that the chimp be shot because it had become a public health risk.

The remaining one will be deported to Tanzania....

It is alleged that the same chimp killed a person in Tanzania and the wildlife authorities condemned the trio to death before they were relocated to Uganda.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003


Vets at the Tama Zoological Park in western Tokyo had no choice. Kenta, the zoo's alpha male chimp, had to have a vasectomy....

Kenta has many mates so the park first tried separating him from the ladies during mating season. This totally disrupted the social hierarchy -- the other chimps saw it as Kenta failing to prove his dominance -- so Kenta went under the knife....

Monday, February 10, 2003


Who's Minding the L.A. Zoo?
Animal Welfare vs. The Bottom Line
By Kerri Hikida
"Zoos are intrinsically wrong. They are against everything America stands for, which is freedom. We have to work towards freeing animals, not towards keeping them captive in cages. It's the American thing to do."

So says Los Angeles Zoo animal keeper and union shop steward David Reames. Despite his incisive words, Reames is not a zoo abolitionist-he feels zoos still have a role to play in the modern world. But most zoos, he says, L.A.'s included, are making the entertainment of humans, as opposed to the welfare of animals, their primary focus....

Slowly but surely, L.A. Zoo facilities have improved over the years in terms of new exhibits, Reames acknowledges. New exhibits include an improved chimpanzee area, a new orangutan exhibit, and a children's zoo, and many more, such as a gorilla reserve and a "Rain Forest of the Americas," are under construction. However, that doesn't eliminate the pervasive problems that persist-the zoo needs to reverse its movement towards running its facilities like an amusement park, and do more on educating the public regarding how habitat loss and environmental degradation affects animals, Reames says....

What you don't hear about is the opposite-over-breeding. Because of the limited space zoos have for any given species, when animals are reproducing too much, not everyone gets to stay.

So where does the "excess" go? When the L.A. Zoo chimp population reached surplus levels, they began selling them for entertainment purposes (where do you think Michael Jackson got his chimp?). Other animals are traded to other zoos or have to stay in inadequate holding facilities. At some zoos, though the L.A. Zoo has moved away from this practice, animals are sold to hunting ranches or animal research facilities. (The L.A. Zoo created a law several years ago that mandates zoo officials not cooperate with hunting ranches.)

"'Animal Surplus' is the four-letter word of the zoo business; it's the secret no one wants to get out," Reames says....

Saturday, February 08, 2003


DR TERENCE KEALEY Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham
Political folly's a waste of cash

...The manned flights are little more than ego boosts for American politicians - yet those are the expensive and dangerous ones. It is not for me to tell the Americans what to do with their money but just think what they might achieve instead. They might fund a proper legal service for the poor, so that fewer innocents are falsely convicted of capital crimes...

They might provide genuine aid to the developing world. They could even help preserve the disappearing gorillas and chimpanzees of Africa or even - heaven forbid - cut taxes to boost their economy.


What's in a number?
What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes
By Jonathan Marks

It's all many of us know about genetics: Humans and chimpanzees share 98 percent of the same genetic material. I remember being impressed by this figure when I first heard it. But what does it really mean?

The 98-percent figure signifies nothing and everything, says molecular anthropologist Jonathan Marks in his latest book, What it Means to be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and their Genes. Our fascination with it likely reflects our familiarity with the apes, and our unfamiliarity with genetic comparisons, he adds....

Just listen to his first lines: "You know them. You've seen them, perhaps in the zoo, perhaps in the movies or on television. You've looked deep in into their dark, soulful eyes, pondered their hairy faces, and recognized a mind behind those eyes."

Despite the book's title (likely, a marketing decision), Marks lures the reader with the human-ape question for two chapters, then seamlessly moves on to race, religion, animal rights, and the role of science in society....

Friday, February 07, 2003


Public Primates
The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary must open to the public, after it gets its federal and state licenses in order.

PALM HARBOR - For the 28 apes who make the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary their home, this is the final stretch.

The shuttered roadside attraction, known for decades as Noell's Chimp Farm, must open to the public by the end of June or it will lose its state license to possess wildlife for exhibition.

But the federal government has banned the 49-year-old facility from putting the orangutans, chimpanzees and one lone gorilla on display. After the old Chimp Farm failed a series of five federal inspections in the late 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture got an administrative law judge to permanently revoke the facility' s Animal Welfare Act license and fine it $25,000.

Meanwhile, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last year granted the newly formed, nonprofit Suncoast Primate Sanctuary a state license to possess Class I wildlife, which includes all the apes, on the condition that it obtains a new federal license and begins exhibiting the animals to the public no later than June 30.

"It's kind of like a Catch-22," said Maj. Kyle Hill of the wildlife commission. "Our license says they have to exhibit, and the federal [government] says they can't."...

The Chimp Farm was frequently the target of animal abuse complaints and once was listed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as one of the worst offenders in the nation....

Also living at the former Chimp Farm is Cheetah - or at least one of the Cheetahs - who appeared in the Tarzan films of the 1930s and 1940s. Today he is an energetic, gray-muzzled 70-something who loves to eat peanut butter and mug for an audience....

Some of the chimpanzees already are living in the new ape house, while others remain in cages that appear to be antiques....

The state wildlife officer said there will be no more second chances if the sanctuary does not obtain a federal license allowing it to open to the public before the end of June....

Thursday, February 06, 2003


Massive Great Ape Die-Off in Africa—Ebola Suspected

A catastrophic die-off of lowland gorillas and chimpanzees at the very heart of their range in central Africa has been reported by scientists....

The first deaths were reported on November 26, and in mid-December scientists from Gabon's Centre International de Recherches Medicales de Franceville (CIRMF) collected samples from four gorilla and two chimpanzee carcasses and confirmed the presence of Ebola virus in all six cases....

Karesh said it was not known whether infected humans could be spreading the disease to apes....

Wednesday, February 05, 2003


Animal House
Charlotte Metro Zoo has been cited over a dozen times by the USDA. Critics wonder why it's still open.

[Sidebar] ..."Are you sad, little monkey?" I overheard one grinning dunderhead cheerfully ask as she filmed her two kids tossing crackers to a pathetic looking chimpanzee, its arms outstretched through the bars of its cage. I guess that's part of the "human interaction" to which the pamphlet referred....

Less than an hour's drive from Charlotte in Rowan County, Charlotte Metro Zoo boasts -- along with our city's name -- a stable of over 100 animals, including baboons, chimpanzees, bears, wolves, camels, kangaroos, llamas, some 30 big cats, and nearly a dozen small, exotic cats. Steve Macaluso, the owner of the wildlife collection, has for years been criticized by animal rights activists. Groups like PETA have alleged Macaluso guilty of everything from overbreeding, taking baby animals from their mothers prematurely for commercial purposes, fasting the animals, keeping them in isolation or in inappropriate groups, and failing to provide proper shelter. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued numerous "non-compliance" citations to the zoo, including: failure to provide big cats with a veterinarian-approved diet, failure to maintain and clean enclosures, and failure to provide shelter from the elements. There have also been several well-publicized cases of animals escaping from the zoo, including a 1997 incident when a chimpanzee named Sydney broke free and roamed the area for a week, scaring nearby residents. As animal control officers attempted to return Sydney to his cage, the chimp broke free and bit a TV cameraman twice on the arm. This incident resulted in a USDA investigation and a $750 fine....

On June 6, 2002, the zoo was cited once again for failure to provide an individually housed primate -- in this case a chimp named J.R. -- with the proper environment enhancement to meets its social and psychological needs. "Since this chimp is housed alone, it needs even greater amounts of enrichment to occupy his time," the inspector wrote....

The zoo's final inspection last year came on October 9. For the third time, it was cited for not providing adequate housing for J.R. the chimp. "Individually housed primates must be able to see and hear primates of their own compatible species," the inspector wrote. "Singly-housed chimp still cannot see other primates."

When I visited the zoo a few weeks ago, J.R. was still housed in solitary. When asked about this, Macaluso explained that he had to get rid of his other chimp, and that the "USDA was not thrilled with that."

"Being that we have other primates, the USDA says that it's got to see another primate," Macaluso says. "Well, I totally disagree with that. To help solve the problem, there's a very good chance we're going to get rid of the one chimp we have right now. I'm going to send it to a friend with a female chimp that's looking to breed. Then when we're ready, we'll bring that chimp back. Not that it will make the chimp any happier; the only reason I'm doing it is because the USDA wrote us up."...


Study animals, author says, but don't imitate them

...In her book, "Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn About Sex From Animals," Zuk, 46, explores the tendency by some humans to use animal behavior to justify their own actions....

Example: bonobos.

These peace-loving cousins to the chimpanzee, discovered in the early 20th century, are gaining pop-culture attention for their free-loving ways. Bonobos have a lot of sex, but they don't display a lot of violence. So some scientists, according to Zuk's book, have jumped on the bonobo craze to promote a "make love, not war" model of society....

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

So a modified chimpanzee virus may protect genetically-modified mice from a human disease. So what? Too bad researchers don't expend more effort trying to protect humans from HIV. Here's more on why such mad science is a waste of time and money.


Fighting Fire With Fire? Vaccine Based On Chimp Virus Shows Promise Against HIV

In a new study in mice, a modified form of an innocuous chimpanzee virus has shown marked potency as a protective vaccine against HIV, itself believed to have crossed into the human population from chimpanzees sometime in the 1930s....

Because HIV infects only humans and chimpanzees, the current study used a sophisticated mouse model to test the new vaccine....

"It's hard to say that because the vaccine works well in a mouse model, it will protect humans from HIV infection," Ertl cautions. "But we do know that the kind of immune response we saw in mice can protect non-human primates infected with SIV from developing disease."...

Sunday, February 02, 2003


Foundation gives KC Zoo $750,000

...the most significant change will be the addition of a boat dock in the African section. It will allow passengers to disembark nearer the chimpanzee exhibit, which the zoo plans to highlight this year.

The ride will leave from the boathouse near the African market and stop at a new pier near the plains exhibit. Another ride will allow people to get closer to the chimpanzees via a roadway....

Officials expect the new rides to be ready by March 1, before a fund-raising visit on March 4 by naturalist Jane Goodall and the premiere of a new Imax film about chimpanzees....