Sunday, October 31, 2004

TALKING WITH THE ANIMALS

Animals and human beings have much to gossip about

A FEW years ago I had a conversation that utterly changed my attitude towards animals. The topic of this conversation was not, in itself, particularly fascinating, being concerned mostly with mosquitoes and marshmallows. The discussion did not flow easily, partly because my interlocutor kept scratching her bottom and trying to stick a twig in my ear. What made this conversation extraordinary, however, and unlike any other I have had, was that it took place with a chimpanzee.

Panbanisha, a 14-year-old female bonobo or pygmy chimp, had been taught to “speak” by scientists at the Georgia Primate Centre using a pictorial keypad and voice synthesiser. At the time of our meeting, she had assembled a working vocabulary of 250 words, but an understanding of perhaps 3,000 more. From these, scientitists concluded that Panbanisha understood such concepts as loss and regret, the past and the future, truth and falsehood. She was able to construct quite complex sentences, and knew the difference between “put the water in the orange juice”, and “put the orange juice in the water”; she was, in short, a great deal more coherent that John Prescott.

I left my encounter with Panbanisha convinced that animals do think....

Descartes held that speech and reason set man apart from all other animals, and thus non-human animals were beyond ethical consideration. The slow erosion of this approach is one of the most important societal changes of the past 40 years. While there are still arguments over what a fox feels as it is chased by hounds, almost nobody would now argue that animals are beneath moral consideration. True, we remain deeply confused in our attitudes: the number of animals used for research is sharply down, but the hideously cruel foie gras industry has doubled in size over the past 14 years; few still wear fur, but we choose to ignore the often unspeakable conditions on factory farms. Yet the general trend is undoubtedly towards humane treatment of animals, and greater humility in human beings: less, and less cruel experimentation; food raised without suffering. By 2012, every one of Europe’s 200 million hens will be legally entitled to a perch. A small step up for chickens, but a revolution compared with the way previous generations have approached barnyard animals.

The change springs not from mere sentimentality or anthropomorphism, but a realisation, powered by scientific discovery, that the distance between animal and human being, between us and them, is far smaller than tradition and religion have asserted....

EATING APES TO EXTINCTION

Great apes face extinction

Chained by the neck to a concrete outhouse for 12 years, it was not much of a life. But given the alternative, Julie was lucky.

Bought for £60 as an infant, this suburban yard in Douala, Cameroon's commercial capital, was the only home she knew.

Slamming her hands on the ground, screaming, the family pet was evidently in distress but at least she had survived, unlike most great apes in central Africa.

After being captured with her in the jungle Julie's parents almost certainly ended up in a cooking pot as bushmeat, a trade which is driving chimpanzees and gorillas towards extinction.

Young chimps like Julie are more valuable as pets but as they grow strong and wild they can also end up as bushmeat or as prisoners, chained to a wall.

In this case there was a happy ending. Fed up with her angry and out-of-control pet, the owner contacted a wildlife centre at nearby Limbe to take her away.

After being tranquilised and having her chain broken Julie was lifted into a cage and driven to Limbe to be quarantined for three months and introduced to other chimps who have also been rescued.

Whether she will integrate is uncertain. 'This animal thinks it is a human. She has never seen another chimpanzee,' said Livia Wittiger, a biologist at the centre.

Most great apes in the Congo basin never get that chance. An estimated one to five million tonnes of bushmeat is eaten here every year, its value ranging from £10 million to £100m in different countries....

Western chimpanzees have disappeared from Benin, Gambia and Togo and fewer than 1,000 remain in Senegal, Ghana and Guinea-Bissau. The UN environmental agency has warned that we are destroying a bridge to our origins - humans share more than 96 per cent of their DNA with great apes.

Hunting and eating great apes has been illegal for a decade but it is only recently that the trade went underground, partly because since last year any restaurant caught serving meat from endangered animals faces up to three years in prison and a $16,000 (£8,700) fine.

...Chimp and gorilla meat has been found in Europe but is usually consumed in central and western Africa.

Babies have been sold as pets but nine out of 10 have died from disease and neglect, said Felix Lankester, of the Limbe Wildlife Centre. As awareness of the problem grows more of those pets which survive will be rescued. 'It's not too late, but there is not a lot of hope left for the great apes. They are spiralling into extinction.'

CONUNDRUM OF THE HOBBITS

Eton or the zoo?

The discovery of a new species of human poses exciting questions about who we are. How would we treat this close relative if one were found alive today?

...What is more, these hunters existed as recently as 12,000 years ago and, who knows, living groups of them may still be lingering on in odd corners even today.

This is shattering news and will create fascinating problems for both political and religious leaders.

Pet cemetery?

Suppose for a moment that a living tribe of these beings is discovered, how should they be treated?

Are they merely advanced apes, or are they miniature humans?

If an explorer brought back one of their infants to study, would you put him down for Eton or the Zoo?

If he died, would he be buried in consecrated ground or a pet cemetery?

His very existence among us would make us question all over again, what it is to be human....

Experimental cages

A great deal will depend on what happens when we first meet living examples of this new species.

If, when we greet them, they go OOARGH, OOARGH, like chimps, they will doubtless be classified as rather advanced apes.

In theory, the existence of Mini-Man should destroy religion, but I can already hear the fanatics claiming that he has been put on earth by the Devil

And the poor things may even end up in experimental cages. They would have no more rights than the chimpanzees do to this day.

If on the other hand we discover that they have some kind of spoken language and we can learn that language, or alternatively they can learn ours, there we are into a whole new ball-game.

When it comes down to it, being able to talk is really what defines humanity.

If Mini-Man talks, then, let's face it, there are two species of human beings on this planet and not one, as we always thought.

If you shot a Mini-Man it would be murder. If you cooked one and ate it, it would be cannibalism. If you experimented on one it would be torture....

And why should being able to talk define humanity, any more than tool use did before other beings were found to use tools as well? These chimpanzees cannot speak aloud, but can communicate through sign language.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

UNEXPECTED BIRTHS AT SANCTUARY

Pregnancies Surprise Workers At Wildlife WayStation
4-Pound Female Chimp Born At Facility

Although the Wildlife WayStation considers vasectomy to be the best option for keeping chimpanzees from breeding, the method may need some tweaking. Several females were discovered pregnant during the month of October.

The 160-acre animal sanctuary is in the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles. Officials there said a 4-pound female chimpanzee was born last Friday to Ernesta, who is 10 ½ years old.
"We're proud to announce a rare bundle of joy at the WayStation," said sanctuary founder and director Martine Colette. "Mother and baby are doing just fine."

Nine-year-old Shake is due in December, Colette said.

Vanilla, who is almost 11, gave birth nine weeks prematurely to an underdeveloped fetus on Oct. 19. There is a 20 percent stillbirth rate among chimps.

During a recent, twice-a-year health exam, veterinarian James Mahoney realized that the three chimps were pregnant.

Of the 50 at the Wildlife WayStation, only two are male and both had been vasectomized -- one in October 2000 and another in July 2003.

It has not been determined which surgery -- or if both vasectomies -- failed.

In the 28-year history of the sanctuary, 48 animals have been born. The facility attempts to avoid breeding....

Thursday, October 28, 2004

N.Y. HEARS STORIES FROM A SANCTUARY

Founder of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Speaks in New York

Gloria Grow, Founder and Director of the Fauna Foundation, a Montreal-based sanctuary for abused and neglected animals, will speak at an event sponsored by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS).

"In Their Own Words: Stories of Chimpanzees Rescued from Research," a lecture and "virtual" tour of the Fauna Sanctuary, will be held on Thursday, Oct. 28, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Park Central Hotel, 870 Seventh Avenue at 56th Street.

In 1997, Fauna rescued 15 chimpanzees from the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates. Today - in the care of Grow, her partner, Richard Allan, D.V.M., and staff - these chimps are recovering from years of pain, fear and trauma....

Says Dr. Theo Capaldo, NEAVS' President, "We want to inspire people to help end the use of chimpanzees in research. This event promises to bring us a step closer to understanding our 'next of kin.' That knowledge, in turn, will bring us closer to the day when all chimpanzees are freed from all laboratories everywhere."...

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

CULTURE ALMOST LOST TO LOGGERS

Chimpanzee "Workshop" Discovered in Congo

Scientists have discovered that a remote rainforest in Central Africa, saved from logging by a collaboration among the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, a timber company and the Republic of Congo, is home to a population of innovative, tool-making chimpanzees that “fish” for termite dinners.

According to a study in the November issue of the journal The American Naturalist, chimps living in the 100-square-mile “Goualougo Triangle” have given researchers a comprehensive snapshot of more complex tool-use among non-human large primates....

But perhaps even most remarkable is the fact that the chimpanzee population still exists in this remote forest....

"Had the Wildlife Conservation Society not helped to save the Goualougo from being logged, this discovery would not have been made and the forest and the chimps would have been lost,” said Steve Gulick of Wildland Security. “At the same time, this study makes one wonder about the unnamed and never-to-be-known Goualougos now threatened before the saw."

Monday, October 25, 2004

ANOTHER PRAISE PIECE ON VIVISECTION

Research chimps are in lap of luxury

SAN ANTONIO -- The soaring 29-foot domed ceilings, bathed in natural light, rival anything Club Med has to offer.

Interior furnishings and trappings are equally luxurious -- if you're a chimpanzee, that is.

There are climbing bars and poles, tire and rope swings and sunbathing platforms. The help visits several times a day, bringing crunchy biscuits, seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. And there is stimulating entertainment -- faux termite nests jammed with honey.

Welcome to the new chimp village at Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. This is where research chimpanzees -- humans' closest animal relatives -- will be able to live in social groups and spacious housing when they are not actively part of a biomedical study.

"The best enrichment for any primate is another primate," said Suzette Tardif, associate director of the Southwest National Primate Research Center, which is at the foundation on Loop 410. "The best situation is to get as many of your animals in social housing as possible."

The foundation has about 220 chimps, which are used in studies when scientists need close genetic relatives of humans. But some chimps go years between studies. So three years ago, the primate center got a $2 million federal grant for special group housing for these animals.

Genetically speaking, chimps and other apes are nearly identical to humans, and their continued use in medical research remains an emotional topic. Though chimp use has diminished over the years, scientists maintain that some studies could not be done without them.

Foundation chimps have been used to develop and test vaccines for hepatitis A and B and now are used in ongoing inquiries into hepatitis C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS....

Club Med? Hardly! I wonder if this "fair and balanced" reporter would like to spend her vacation in one of these most excellent cages before returning for another round of vivisection? Ask her: ctumiel@express-news.net. Saying that the research "could not be done without them" (a questionable premise itself, although she does not question it) begs the question of whether it is ethical to experiment at all on beings so like us. Letters to the editor: http://www.indystar.com/help/contact/letters.html.

TAXING ANIMAL ADS?

Bright ideas

Nick Temple is the editor of the Global Ideas Book, a compendium of social innovations. It encompasses fledgling schemes, existing projects and bright ideas, all connected by their use of creativity and imagination to improve people's lives. Here he picks his top 10 social inventions from the book, from hibernation days to eco-taxes...

9. A focused eco-tax on using animals in product marketing
A great piece of simple creative thinking in evidence here: companies who use animals in their marketing and promotion should have to contribute something to preserving or helping the animal in question. Esso would have to contribute to a tiger reserve, Andrex to a dogs home, PG Tips to chimpanzee welfare and so on. It needn't necessarily be a huge amount but seeing as the companies profit from using the animals, it seems fair to give something back, and it may even prove to be a useful marketing exercise for the companies involved....

It would better help the animals not to exploit them as ad tools in the first place.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

MORE $$$ FOR CHIMPANZEE RESEARCH IN LOUSIANA

$2 billion shortfall predicted
Medicaid funding at risk

The head of the state's Medicaid program warned a legislative committee Friday of a projected $2 billion budget hole for the program that provides health care for the poor and elderly....

...The committee also cleared the way for several construction projects, including a woman's softball complex at LSU and a chimpanzee research facility in New Iberia....

Another research facility? Or just expansion of this one?

AUSTRALIAN APE ARTIST

Human league

WHEN Lisa Roet was expecting her first child, she joked that it would be born half human, half orang-utan. She had just returned from six weeks in the wilds of Borneo, where she lived with a group of French scientists studying the behavioural patterns of primates....

Roet is studio artist and field worker, having undertaken residencies in Borneo, at a laboratory in Atlanta in the US and at zoos in Atlanta and London. (She has also spent time at zoos in Antwerp, Berlin and Kuala Lumpur.)

In Atlanta, Roet taught a chimpanzee to answer her questions: she would speak and he would reply by typing his answers on a keyboard. Rearing her son Buster, now two, has cast this experience in a new light - particularly the equivalences scientists found between the intellect of a chimp and that of a three-year-old human....

"All that research which said we [humans] are supreme because we're able to build this or that, because we use tools where no ape uses tools, because we are the only ones who have language, it's so ridiculous," she says. "They have a whole vocalisation - we just don't understand what they're saying. And the hand is evolutionary, the thing that joins us very distinctly with other primates is the ability for the thumb and index finger to touch each other, which allows tools to be used."

Roet sees similar reasoning in the racist use of differences in brain, skull and forehead size to argue that white people were more intelligent than black....

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

HURRICANE REPAIR AT APE SANCTUARY

Students help rebuild lives of hurricane victims along Treasure Coast

A handful of Indian River Community College students are providing much-needed help to Treasure Coast residents who likely would have waited months before getting a contractor to repair their storm-damaged homes.

The team of carpentry students, led by instructor David VanCise, has spent weeks on a slew of reconstruction projects arranged through the Treasure Coast Builders Association, including six St. Lucie Habitat for Humanity homes and the Center for Captive Chimpanzee Care in Ft. Pierce....

Friday, October 15, 2004

ZOO'S NEGLECT KILLS CHIMPANZEE

Chimpanzee Tinku dies at Lahore Zoo
Zoo management keeps hush on the death

The Lahore Zoo has lost one of its four chimpanzees, an endangered species, as a 4-year old chimpanzee, named Tinku, died of illness, however the zoo management had not made his death public, wildlife department sources told Daily Times on Friday.

The chimpanzee died because of zoo maltreatment and a lack of proper medical aid facilities.The zoo management had kept hush on Tinku’s death. Chimpanzees are priceless because they are an endangered African species. Chimpanzees and human beings have 70 percent genes in common and they are considered one of the most intelligent species of the animal kingdom.

Sources said that Tinku was born on April 2000 and was the first chimpanzee to have been born in Pakistan. His parents, named Romeo and Julie, have been in the zoo for over a decade. Since Romeo, the father, was hostile towards Tinku, he was separated from his parents and was brought up independently by zookeepers. However, Tinku’s sister, named Pinky, was living with the parents in the zoo. According to sources, Tinku fell ill towards the end of August and died in early September, however the zoo administration kept his death a secret. Sources claim that Tinku was suffering from pneumonia, which was a curable disease, and that proved that the zoo management had not taken care of the chimpanzee and were responsible for his death....

Sources added that the Lahore Zoo did not have a veterinary hospital like foreign zoos normally have. Moreover, it did not have x-ray facilities or stretchers to carry the animals in case of emergencies....

Ironically, Friday was the last day of a two-day international conference at the Lahore Zoo, which highlighted zoo management responsibilities and the handling and care of small mammals.

SEEING MORE MOE

Couple Reunited With Moe the Chimp

A West Covina couple who raised a chimpanzee in their home for 33 years before his forced removal to a sanctuary in 1999 will be able to see him regularly again, starting this weekend.

"Words cannot express how thrilled we are to finally be reunited with Moe," LaDonna Davis said from the Los Angeles law office of Gloria Allred. "After five years of separation, our `family' is finally together again."

She and her husband, St. James, have had limited access to Moe since he was placed at the 160-acre Wildlife Waystation on the edge of the Angeles National Forest, five miles north of the Foothill (210) Freeway.

To see him they had to pay several hundred dollars for a county fire safety officer to be present for each visit.

But Moe's recent transfer to the Animal Haven Ranch at Caliente in Kern County will enable the Davises to see their "child" more often -- and for as long as they want.

Moe's mother was killed by poachers in Africa. St. James Davis brought the chimpazee home to America, and he and his wife raised the primate for more than 30 years, treating him as their child. He ate with them, slept with them and watched TV with them.

But in September 1999, after Moe was accused of maiming a police officer and biting off the tip of a woman's finger, which the chimpanzee apparently mistook for licorice because of the victim's red fingernail, he was taken to the Wildlife Waystation....

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

QUESTIONING TERMS

Definitions
The Inoculated Mind

...At what point does a cell become a human being?

It used to be that the definition of 'human' included the ability to use tools. Observers later discovered that other animals could also use tools, so the definition was changed to say that the tools had to be designed according to preset pattern, either intuitive or taught.

However, a closer look at chimpanzees showed that their tool use was more advanced than previously thought. Chimpanzees hunt for hours looking for specific types of sticks to use on their termite-munching expeditions. They use strong, broad sticks to punch holes in nests, and chew the ends of slender sticks to make small spoons to scoop out a crunchy meal.

And they teach each other how to make them.

Humans only invented the fork a thousand years ago, and when I eat sushi I'm still using little more than sticks as tools. The most advanced tools we make are different only in complexity. In concept, they are still made from preset designs fashioned to solve problems.

Clearly, there is a large difference between the intellectual potential of a human being and that of a chimpanzee. It is enough to distinguish us biologically from every other creature on this planet. But I find it curious that a fully grown, personable, nonhuman animal is afforded a lower status than a single-celled genetically human zygote....

"Life," as it is used in public debate over abortions and stem-cell research, is a misnomer. They are really debating over the status of embryos as persons worthy of moral status. Why not use a more descriptive and non-persuasive word? The reason is that power relationships are at stake, between humans and animals, men and women, and you and me....

NAIROBI MYSTERY MEAT MAY BE CHIMPANZEE

Bushmeat trade thriving in Kenya

The meat from wild animals killed illegally is being sold in Kenya's capitol, Nairobi, a report has said.

According to the Born Free Foundation, Nairobi is one of the many bushmeat trade "hot spots", which pose a serious threat to several wild animal species.

The Eating The Unknown report says many customers of Nairobi butchers are unaware that they are buying bushmeat....

"The statistics suggest that nearly half the meat bought and sold from the 202 butcheries in the survey is either entirely or partly bushmeat," said Winnie Kiiru, East African representative of the Born Free Foundation.

This is of concern for people as well as wildlife because the spread of diseases such as anthrax and Ebola have been linked to human consumption of wild animals.

The trade in bushmeat is seen as one of the many threats facing African wildlife, including various monkey and antelope species as well as great apes such as the chimpanzee....

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

TEACHING COMPASSION FOR CHIMPANZEES

Ugandans scout schools of plenty

... Karl Schaefer, a Durham Academy computer teacher, has taken two UNITE-sponsored trips to Uganda. The aim is to improve the lives of rural Ugandans and preserve the nation's wildlife habitats and natural resources through technology and education. Schaefer's focus has been in those regions where the chimpanzee population is particularly threatened.

"We're doing conservation outreach," Schaefer said. "In order to stop the destruction of the environment, they must find ways to sustain and support themselves."

Schaefer participated in workshops with the women during his trips to Uganda in which people were taught alternatives to killing the chimpanzees that destroy crops and strategies to prevent human disease from ravaging the primates....

WILDLIFE WAYSTATION FINDING ITS WAY BACK

Wildlife Waystation gets back on feet

The ramshackle chimpanzee cages have been replaced, the menagerie of exotic animals is growing again and the slew of violations that closed the Wildlife Waystation are slowly being rectified.

And Saturday, supporters will attend the annual Safari Brunch, a $500-a-person gala at the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, with actress Sharon Stone making the pitch for the animal sanctuary once the largest facility of its kind west of the Mississippi River.

Three years after Los Angeles County closed the waystation and two years after its founder lost her licenses because of animal-welfare violations, the sanctuary appears to be on the upswing.

"The waystation is back on the right track. We see the light at the end of the tunnel,' said martine Colette, who founded the sanctuary at the top of Little Tujunga Canyon Road in 1969 to take in retired zoo animals, injured native wildlife and confiscated exotic animals....

Monday, October 11, 2004

CHIMP FARM SEEKS TO REOPEN

From sideshow to sanctuary

The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, once a dilapidated roadside zoo, has updated its facilities and is awaiting USDA approval to reopen to the public.

...In 1999, the sanctuary, known for years as Noell's Ark Chimp Farm, was closed to the public because its inhabitants were kept in small rusty cages that did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

In 2001, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission denied the renewal of the sanctuary's state license for owning exotic animals because of similar problems.

But the primates' new homes all meet or exceed federal and state requirements, said Pam Gilbert, great-ape coordinator for the sanctuary....

The youngest inhabitant of the sanctuary is a 4-month-old chimpanzee named Bob, after the Chimp Farm's founder, Bob Noell. Baby Bob, as he's called by all the volunteers, wears a diaper and is under constant human supervision, Gilbert said.

Baby Bob's parents, Maggie and Maggilan, live at the sanctuary too. But Maggie, who's about 40 years old, didn't produce any milk, so Baby Bob had to be raised on a bottle.

He is taken home each night by volunteers who have a license to handle primates, said Debbie Geehring, the sanctuary's office coordinator.

"He doesn't like his car seat very much," Geehring said. "He makes quite a fuss."

Baby Bob has his own cradle, but prefers sleeping on his caretakers' chests, Geehring said.

As volunteers raise the newest member of the sanctuary's community, they're working to shed the place's negative reputation.

The Chimp Farm was founded in 1954 by the Noells, who were both from families that performed medicine shows along the Atlantic seaboard. The Noells owned chimpanzees that would box and wrestle male volunteers in a traveling show. In 1971, they ended their circuit and settled on their property on Alt. U.S. 19 south of Tarpon Springs. After they retired, they cared for abandoned animals, mostly apes and monkeys.

When it was open during the 1990s, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals received regular complaints from the Chimp Farm's visitors, said Amy Rhodes, senior animals in entertainment specialist. PETA stopped by for a visit and wrote an articles in its magazine.
"We deemed them one of the worst roadside zoos in the country," Rhodes said.

PETA complained to the USDA and played a role in the Chimp Farm losing its USDA license in 1999, Rhodes said.

She said no one from PETA has been out to sanctuary since it closed, but the organization has checked the sanctuary's Web site.

Rhodes said the new facility looks better, but still does not provide enough for the animals' welfare.

"It seems like they're boasting about it, and it's nothing more than concrete and metal," Rhodes said. "They're not coming close to what these animals would have in the wild. So we're not hopeful. ... We'll certainly keep a close eye on it."...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

GOODALL SOLDIERS ON

New mission for chimps' champion

She has devoted her career to saving primates. Now scientist and campaigner Jane Goodall is 70 and embroiled in the toughest fight of her life

There are not many women who in their seventieth year take on more commitments and get deeper into public controversy, but Jane Goodall, the world's leading primatologist, is not like other women.

While some her age draw pensions and play golf, she says she is 'on the road 300 days a year'. She criss-crosses the world giving lectures, meeting conservationists, pouring energy into her chimp sanctuaries and the environment youth movement she recently founded. She returns whenever she can to the Tanzanian forest home of the chimps who made her famous.

...now, says Goodall, the bushmeat trade is driving apes to the point of extinction. 'Dealing with this is massively harder. There's so much money involved. This isn't indigenous people hunting for subsistence. It's commercial exploitation. Loggers open up the forests with roads and commercial hunters follow. They kill everything - monkeys, antelopes birds - everything. The meat is smoked and the urban elite pay good prices. Some comes to Western restaurants. It's killing on a scale we've never seen before. Its raping the forests.'

Goodall has four sanctuaries burdened with the aftermath of slaughter. 'At Brazzaville alone there are 120 orphans. Many are traumatised after seeing their mothers killed. You can't rehabilitate them into the wild and many live to 60.' This has led some conservationists to ask: why pour resources into rescuing chimps that will never be released?

'Why? Because I value them as individuals,' says Goodall. 'That's what my work has been about. When you meet chimps you meet individual personalities. When a baby chimp looks at you it's just like a human baby. We have a responsibility to them.'...

Friday, October 08, 2004

ZOO ADDS SIX APE INMATES

Zoo welcomes cheeky chimps

Sally and Suzy were sussing out their new home, complete with ropes, benches, races and straw, yesterday.

The chimpanzee sisters have come down from Auckland to take up residence in their specially designed enclosure at Hamilton Zoo.

Four other chimps – Mike, Lucy, Luka and Lucifer – also made the trip and for the next week will be settling in before moving outside.

Auckland Zoo senior primate keeper Christine Tintinger said Hamilton Zoo's facilities were fantastic.

"They have dens in case the chimps get sick or they're breeding....

Ms Tintinger said chimps were extremely intelligent but got bored very easily, and when that happened they became naughty....

I'd be bored too if I was locked up a zoo.

CHIMPANZEE TOOL KITS

Chimps Shown Using Not Just a Tool but a "Tool Kit"

Anyone who has tried to replace a punctured tire or fix a leaky faucet knows the importance of having the right tool for the job. Chimpanzees, it turns out, are also very particular about their tool choice, especially when it comes to digging into termite mounds to get a tasty snack.

Using infrared, motion-triggered video cameras, researchers have documented how chimpanzees in the Goualougo Triangle—a region within the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo—use a variety of tools to extract termites from their nests. The "tool kits" are among the most complex ever observed in wild chimp populations

See Chimp Video Clips (Real One Player Required) • Video 1: Adult Female Punctures Termite Nest With StickVideo 2: Young Male Punctures Nest, Then "Fishes"Video 3: Adult Female Punctures Aboveground Nest, Then "Fishes"

...The study reinforces the notion that tool use began long before humans walked the planet. Humans, chimps, and orangutans all used wood and bone tools, suggesting that tool use originated with a common ancestor more than 12 million years ago, Fuentes said.
The researchers are expanding their camera array to more chimp communities to observe differences in tool use.

There is tremendous pressure to document these chimpanzee cultures quickly. The animals are endangered by a burgeoning trade in their meat and outbreaks of viruses such as Ebola. The forests in which they reside are threatened by logging interests.

"Humans are extraordinary tool users. Examining these behaviors in our closest living relatives provides insights into the material culture and social traditions of our species," Sanz said. "As these forests vanish so do our opportunities to document the unique cultures that reside within them. We are quickly losing these apes that we hardly know."

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

LONG LOST COUSIN?

Giant ape may be new

An elusive giant ape has been spotted in remote forests in central Africa, sparking theories that it could be a new species of primate - a finding that would be the most astonishing wildlife discovery in decades, New Scientist says....

The creature's face is gorilla-like and has a sagittal crest - a long bony ridge - that is typical of gorillas.

But other aspects of the skull morphology are that of a chimpanzee, according to Colin Groves, an expert at the Australian National University in Canberra....

Shelly Williams, a US primatologist affiliated to the Jane Goodall Institute in Maryland, captured the apes on video in 2002 with the help of local people and was once briefly confronted by a group of four of them in dense forest.

This, along with other evidence, makes her think that there is a chance the animals could be a new species of great primate - in other words, an undiscovered genetic relative of humans.

Other possibilities are that it is a gorilla-chimp hybrid, or a new sub-species of chimp that would be 50 per cent bigger than its largest cousins....

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

CHIMPANZEE VS. HUMAN CHILDREN: WHO'S SMARTER?

Young chimps make chumps of children

IN ADVERTS they are amusing creatures that ape human behaviour. But scientists have found that young chimpanzees can be more intelligent in their approach to some tasks than children of a similar age.

An experiment conducted at St Andrews University revealed that while children tried to tackle a puzzle without trying to analyse it, chimps of the same age used logic and managed to solve it....

“The chimps worked out that the stabbing motion was irrelevant, unlike the children. They were more discriminating and didn’t mindlessly copy everything they saw,” he said.

“Children were prone to copy everything, which appears a rather less intelligent approach.

“These findings force us to rethink what’s going on in chimps’ heads. It shows they learn from adults in a sophisticated way and that is evidence of culture in a non-human primate.”...

The study has encouraged animal campaigners to call for great apes to be given more protection. Each year people in Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia kill and eat thousands of them.

ANOTHER CHIMPANZEE FLICK FROM KEYSTONE

International Keystone Entertainment Inc. releases second quarter fiscal 2005 financial results

The Company completed the film "Spymate" during the quarter, and delivered it to the film's American distributor. "Spymate" has "Minkey" the chimpanzee on a top-secret mission that will entertain the entire family.... International Keystone Entertainment Inc. continues to build its reputation as a premier family feature film producer with such franchise hits as "Air Bud" and "MVP". Upcoming films such as "Spymate" and "Chestnut" continue to expand the depth of the Company's catalogue of family films.

Family films featuring young chimpanzees torn away from their families. Very uplifting.