The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

No Mums for Orangutan Babies

BUKIT MERAH, Malaysia (AFP) — A Malaysian orangutan sanctuary where baby apes wear nappies, sleep in cots and are cared for by nurses dressed in masks and starched uniforms has drawn the wrath of environmentalists.

At Orangutan Island in Malaysia's north, tourists snap photos as they file past large windows looking onto a facility billed as the world's only rehabilitation and preservation facility for the endangered primates.

Behind the glass, adorable baby orangutans like two-month-old Tuah lie swaddled in nursery sheets and cling to baby rattles.

"He is separated from the mother because his hands got entangled in the mother's hair and was unable to breastfeed," says the facility's chief veterinarian D. Sabapathy.

Tuah lies calmly in his cot with his eyes wide open and hands across his chest, hooked up to cables monitoring his heart beat and oxygen levels, ignoring the passing parade.

But the care lavished on the animals, which are fed every two hours by a staff of seven nurses on duty round the clock, is lost on environmentalists who say this is no way to treat wild animals facing the threat of extinction.

Managers of the 35-acre island, which is part of a resort hotel development, say they aim to return the animals to their natural jungle habitat, but so far none have been released.

"It is ridiculous to have orangutans in nappies and hand-raised in a nursery. How are they going to reintroduce the primates back in the wild," said senior wildlife veterinarian Roy Sirimanne.

Sirimanne, who has worked in zoos in Southeast Asia and the Middle East over the past four decades, said baby orangutans need to be with their mothers to learn survival skills.

"First, we need to save their habitat which is quickly disappearing. And it is the mother that will teach its young for the first four years or more on what to eat and how to look for food," he told AFP.

"Keeping the orangutans in captivity on an island is not a conservation programme. It amounts to desecration (of the species) as it is nearly impossible to reintroduce them back to the forest."

Experts say there are about 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 80 percent of them in Indonesia and the rest in Malaysia's eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo island.

But Orangutan Island is situated in the north of peninsular Malaysia, far from the jungles of Borneo where the orangutan's natural habitat is being lost to logging and palm oil plantations.

A 2007 assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme warned that orangutans will be virtually eliminated in the wild within two decades if current deforestation trends continue.

The Malaysian branch of conservation group Friends of the Earth said the best way to save the orangutan is to address rampant poaching and shrinking habitats.

"We are opposed to the orangutan sanctuary. We are opposed to this theme park resort having wildlife in captivity," said its president Mohamad Idris.

"Captive-bred orangutans have no natural resistance against diseases, making them susceptible to diseases. Death is inevitable," he said.

The centre's veterinarian defended the facility, situated in the tourist town of Bukit Merah, which opened in 2000 and now houses 25 orangutans.

He admitted the centre had suffered a high mortality rate in its early days, with seven deaths of infant orangutans between 2000 and 2003, but said it had learned a lot since then.

"It is the pride of Malaysians and it is aimed at helping ensure our orangutans do not become extinct," said Sabapathy.

He said the facility was originally stocked with orangutans obtained from the forestry department in Sarawak state on Borneo, who had been confiscated from individuals there.

"Now we can study the primate and collect data. The orangutans will eventually be returned to Sarawak. That is our objective," he said.

Sabapathy said infants were only removed from their mothers if they were underweight, neglected and at risk of dying, and that some mothers raised their own babies, including one born in May.

"I will not be disheartened by the criticism," he said. "We are not ill-treating them. People say the species is getting endangered but what are they doing? We are trying to increase the numbers in the wild."

Nearby, 21-year-old nurse Nadiah Mohamad smiled fondly at one-year-old April who was rejected by his mother, and fed him with formula while four-month-old June showed off by jumping around her cot and pulling the bedsheets.

"I love them. It is like taking care of a small child," she said.

When the baby apes are a year old, they are transferred to an "infant development unit" designed to teach them to live in the wild.

In another zone, enclosed with electrified barbed wire, adult orangutans are free to roam and build their nests in the treetops.

Most of the visitors, from Malaysia and abroad, are delighted to interact with the animals and are unaware of the criticism.

"I don't think it is wrong keeping them here. It is a practical solution to save the orangutans and educate our children," said 26-year-old Vikki Kendrick from Britain."


Five Tools Made From Chimpanzees

London, May 31 (ANI): Chimps are so nuts about honey that, even though they’ve no access to a hardware store, they construct their own brand of toolkits when foraging for snacks from beehives, a new study has found.

A research team, which was led by Christophe Boesch of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, studied chimps living in Loango National Park in Gabon.

From analyses, they found that the chimps built and used five different types of tools to help them find beehives and extract honey, reports new Scientist.

The tools included - thin, straight sticks to probe the ground for buried nests; thick, blunt-ended pounders to break open beehive entrances; thinner lever-like enlargers to break down walls within the hive; collectors with frayed ends to dip honey from the opened hive and bark spoons to scoop it out.

A few tools even appeared to have two uses, with enlargers at one end and collectors at the other.

While probing for underground hives required the chimps to conceive of the existence of unseen objects, the mental skills needed for the act and the tasks that follow rival those displayed by humans in the early Stone Age, says Boesch.

The study has been published in the Journal of Human Evolution. (ANI)


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Travis The Chimpanzee, Charla Nash, Daughter Speaks Out

The woman who was maimed by a pet chimpanzee last February in Connecticut feared the animal even before the attack, her daughter said Friday.

“She was afraid of him … She was afraid of his strength,” Briana Nash said Friday of her mother, Charla Nash, during her first live interview since the attack. “He could push a cinderblock like it was a feather. She just couldn’t get over the sheer strength of something like that.”

The 17-year-old girl was interviewed by TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in New York and was joined by Charla’s brothers Mike, her twin, and Steve. She talked about her life with her mom, a single mother of great strength of will who was totally devoted to her only child, and told of a tender moment she shared with her mom on Mother’s Day.

It took place in the Cleveland Clinic, the medical center where Charla was taken days after the attack that nearly took her life and left her blind and with a horribly maimed face. She also lost her fingers. The woman was kept under heavy sedation for weeks, but by early May she was able to speak and recognize her family.

Briana said she went to the hospital with her uncle. “I walked in the room. Uncle Mike said, ‘Hey, Charla, I brought your favorite person. Guess who?’ And she said, ‘Briana,’ ” Briana told Vieira, recalling the visit. “I walked up to her and rubbed her arm. It was nice to be there with her again. She asked me if I was cold and I told her no, and she asked me if I wanted to lay with her. I pulled down the arm of the bed and I leaned on her.

Mike and Steve have traded places living in Cleveland and visiting their sister daily. Briana is living with Mike, who has legal guardianship of her.

Mike told Vieira that Charla remembers the moments before the attack. But she refuses to accept that the animal is responsible for the terrible injuries she suffered. He added that on a recent visit, she got so anxious while trying to recall what happened to her that he called a staff psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic.

‘He didn’t attack me’
“I called the psychiatrist,” Mike said. “The psychiatrist was explaining to her she was in the hospital, she was attacked by Travis,” the chimpanzee. “She said, ‘No no, he didn’t attack me, they would shoot him.”

Charla insisted that Travis attacked Jerry, the deceased husband of the chimp’s owner, Sandra Herold. “She remembered up to the point she got out of the car and … as soon as she got out, she felt something was wrong, and then she stopped talking,” Mike said of his sister.

Charla Nash knew Travis well, and Mike confirmed that his sister feared the chimp.

“She was talking about Travis,” he said. “He’s very strong. He could get real angry.”

On the morning of the attack, Travis was highly agitated and Herold called her friend to come over to her Stamford, Conn., home to help settle him down. When Charla got out of her car, the chimp rushed her and began tearing her face off and chewing off her fingers as Herold frantically called police.

By the time police arrived, Herold was near death. When Travis broke into a police car and began attacking an officer, the policeman shot and killed the 200-pound animal.

‘Your favorite person’
Charla is a single mother with a 17-year-old daughter, Briana, who is now staying with Mike Nash. She saw her mother as soon as she was stabilized after the attack, and has visited her in Cleveland.

Mike said that Charla has just undergone another surgery to remove her sightless eyes and to implant an artificial palate in her mouth that will allow her to speak more clearly and eat more easily. She faces two years of hospitalization and will need lifetime care.

Charla’s family has told of how she was a vibrant and independent woman who did not like to accept anyone’s help. Vieira asked Briana how she deals with her mother’s current condition.

“Most of the time I don’t really think about it too much,” she said. “I try to live like I normally would.”

Charla Nash (on horseback) and her daughter Briana in happier times. Briana says her mother is “her best friend.”

Briana said she retreats into her studies in high school, where she is an honor student. Her mother was big on education and worked to allow her daughter to take overseas trips.

“School’s always been a big thing for me. It’s a very large motivation to me to keep my grades -- do her proud,” Briana said. “The thing about her is she’s kind of my best friend. We have each other. She’s been there my whole life — it’s just her and I, and that’s great. I’d come home every night and she’d cook dinner. We’d talk about our day. She’d tell me about hers at work, and if we had any problems, we talked to each other about it.”

Bills and lawsuits
Charla Nash was attacked in on Feb. 16. She has been in the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio since Feb. 19, where doctors say she’s in critical but stable condition. It is the same medical center where a gunshot victim received a face transplant and held a news conference earlier this month. Doctors won't say whether Charla Nash is a candidate for a face transplant as well.

Steve Nash, a retired school teacher from Virginia with two grown children, moved to Cleveland and stayed at his sister’s side for the first two months of her hospitalization. Michael has legal guardianship of Briana, and recently traded places with his brother as the family continues its vigil.

The medical bills for Charla’s care will be astronomical, and the brothers said they are working with Medicare and officials in Ohio and Connecticut to attempt to arrange some sort of coverage.

Image: Chimpanzee who was killed by police after he attacked a woman.
Kathleen O'rourke / The Stamford Advocate viaAP file
Travis, 15, was shot dead by police after the Feb. 16 attack.

The brothers have recently filed a $50 million lawsuit against Herold and are contemplating suing the state of Connecticut and the city of Stamford as well for allowing her to keep the chimp, and for ignoring warnings that the animal was an accident waiting to happen.

The suit against Herold alleges that she gave Travis Xanax, and the drug upset him. Connecticut officials say a necropsy did find Xanax in the chimp’s blood, but were unable to say whether it was the reason the animal snapped.

Travis had appeared in commercials for Old Navy and Coke and made other TV appearances when he was younger and was a celebrity in Stamford. He was toilet-trained, drank wine from a long-stemmed glass, dined on lobster and filet mignon, surfed the Internet looking at pictures and reportedly even slept with Herold.

Travis reportedly bit an animal control officer a number of years ago. In 2003, he jumped out of Herold’s car and stopped traffic in downtown Stamford for two hours as police tried to corral him, but the incident was judged to be mischievous and not malicious. Herold has told NBC News there was never any indication that Travis would so viciously attack anyone.

Vieira talked about how independent Charla Nash was and asked Briana what she wishes for her mother as she recovers.

“I would like her to be as independent as she possible can. That’s always been the great thing for her — she never relied on anyone,” the girl said while acknowledging that her mother will need round-the-clock help when she gets out of the hospital. Still, she said, she hopes her mom can, “just go outside in the yard, do things that make her happy.”

For information on how you can help Charla Nash and send her your messages of hope, visit The Charla Nash Trust Web site or The Friends of Charla Nash or call 1-866-228-5970.


Humans, Inhumane Treatment of Our Animals

A stirring, intelligent, poetic speech by Tom Regan about the philosophies of animal rights, the individuality and sentience of animals, the intentions of activists, and the principles of justice, nonviolence, respect, and peace, along with complementary images."


Exotic Animals Owners, Turn Exotics In

Conn. DEP to hold amnesty day for exotic animals
The Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn.—Connecticut officials are urging owners of exotic animals to turn in their pets, no questions asked, at an Exotic Animal Amnesty Day planned for July.

Officials are hoping people will bring animals that may be in violation the state's ban on possessing dangerous species, such as wolves, bears and lions. Department of Environmental Protection officials are also reaching out to people who may legally own an exotic animal but no longer wish to keep it.

The program comes in the wake of the February attack on a Stamford resident, Charla Nash, by a 200-pound chimpanzee. Nash lost her hands, nose, lips and eyelids in the assault. She is now blind and faces years of surgical procedures.

The amnesty day will be held July 25 at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. Domestic pets, such as dogs and cats, will not be accepted."


Rescued Ex-Pet Chimpanzees Finds Friend

Several months ago there was a lot of news about the dangerous and life-threatening behavior displayed by primates; especially those that live in a human environment. This is a story about two chimpanzees who became best friends after they were rescued and allowed to live in a protected, but natural habitat with the help experts who understand them.

Chouki lives at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in the rainforest of Cameroon. The seventeen-year-old chimpanzee is blind. A few months ago his right eye became painful and it had to be removed. He was nursed back to health by his devoted friend, another male chimpanzee named Kiki Jackson.

Chouki was orphaned as an infant and taken in as a family pet, but when he turned seven his owners “donated” him to a facility that housed other great apes. Because Chouki was raised by humans, he didn’t know how to behave around the other chimpanzees and was hurt by the aggressive male leader of the group. It left him almost totally blind.

That’s when he was rescued by the animal welfare organization called, IDA-Africa which is supported by In Defense of Animals. He was sent to live at their chimpanzee rescue center.

Soon after Chouki arrived at the sanctuary he was adopted by a group of seven apes. Kiki Jackson is their leader. He’s a gentle, older male who quickly bonded with the disabled chimpanzee. He welcomed Chouki and taught the juveniles in the group to be gentle with him. He has been a devoted friend to Chouki ever since and the two are inseparable.

The group lives together in an enclosed complex that spans over several acres of forest. The IDA-Africa workers adapted nearly one-acre of the area especially for Chouki so could get around. They outfitted trees with ropes and put in special trails. Kiki often looks after Chouki in this safe area while the rest of the group explores more of the forest.

Dr. Sheri Speede, founder of IDA-Africa first ran into Kiki Jackson in 1999. He and a female chimpanzee lived in a small concrete cell at a hotel in a coastal town in Cameroon. The two companions were there as entertainment for the hotel guests.

Dr. Speede didn’t like the living conditions of the friends, but because they were being fed regularly and appeared to be in relatively good health she chose to rescue two other chimpanzees that needed more help.

Later in the year, Dr. Speede sent a volunteer to check up on Kiki and his friend. They were horrified at their discovery. The person who had been paid to feed the apes had left his job and the hotel hadn’t hired anyone to replace him. Kiki was barely alive when they found him and his friend had starved to death.

IDA-Africa took custody of Kiki and rushed him to the sanctuary for treatment. Seven months later, he had gained 40 pounds and was ready to join the 62 other chimpanzees at the rescue center.

After Chouki’s surgery in February to remove his eye, Kiki stayed right by his buddy's side for first few days. He was very gentle as he inspected his friend and taught the other chimpanzees in the group to be careful too. With the help of Kiki's companionship Chouki soon began to feel much better. His appetite came back and he started to play again.

Dr. Speede says that Chouki’s other eye may also need surgery in the future. But everyone is confident Chouki will be in good hands with the help of his best buddy and devoted friend, Kiki Jackson.

The Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center began after U.S. veterinarian Sheri Speede DVM visited a hotel in Cameroon. At the hotel she saw three chimpanzees being held captive as entertainment. She was also aware of the huge problem of poaching of the great apes and the bushmeat trade that left many infant chimpanzees orphans.

She knew she had to do something to help. And with support from In Defense of Animals she put together a modest sanctuary. Today the rescue center rests on 220 acres and is home to more than 60 rescued chimpanzees."


Zoo Raising Baby Orangutan

An orangutan born five weeks ago today at the Kansas City Zoo was rejected by her mother and is being tended around the clock by zoo staff and volunteers.

The baby clings to a furry vest worn by the helpers and requires feeding every hour and a half. Officials hope to place her with a surrogate mother orangutan at the zoo in about five months. Until then, the zoo is not allowing access to the baby or photographs.

The zoo has had success in the past with humans tending to a rejected baby chimpanzee, which has since become completely assimilated in chimp society."


Bigger Brains in Social Animals, Than Solitary Animals

Being social isn't for dummies. Animals that gather into packs, herds or troops — never mind into cities and countries — need to be smart. How else to negotiate the complex rules and hierarchies of their cultures? It's not for nothing that sharks, among the dimmest of the large carnivores, are loners, or that humans — far and away the smartest — are so enthusiastically collectivist.

What this ought to mean is that social animals have bigger brains than solitary ones, and the research has indeed suggested as much. A landmark 2007 paper called "Social Brain Hypothesis," published in the journal Evolution, showed that increased sociality was linked to steadily bigger brains in at least three orders of mammals: primates like us, carnivores like lions and ungulates like zebras and bison.

That widely accepted truth might be coming undone, however, thanks to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to the authors, evolutionary biologists John Finarelli of the University of Michigan and John Flynn of the American Museum of Natural History, there's a much murkier link than we thought between big brains and big societies. As it turns out, it was our favorite nonhuman critters — dogs — that threw off previous data.

Finarelli and Flynn did not study as broad a collection of animals as the authors of the earlier paper. They studied just one order, the carnivores, but they did so in depth. Sampling both living terrestrial carnivores and the fossils of extinct ones, they analyzed overall brain volume relative to body mass in fully 289 species. They also factored in what is known (or, in the case of fossils, theorized) about each species' social behavior. What they got was a surprising mix of findings. (See pictures of 10 species near extinction.)

In general, carnivore brains followed one of several developmental arcs, some growing larger over time, some fluctuating up and down, some remaining relatively steady, some actually growing smaller. Most of the larger members of the feliform suborder — which includes large cats as well as hyenas and mongooses — pretty much stuck with the brain size they had from the start. The extinct bear-dog — a family of animals that died out 9 million years ago and were, as their name suggests, related to both bears and dogs — actually became more pea-brained over time. Common dogs, like humans, have enjoyed a comparatively recent expansion of cranial capacity.

What doesn't seem to track, however, is a consistent connection between these measures and the complexity of the animals' communities. "The universality of the social-brain hypothesis does not apply," says Finarelli.

The researchers cite no shortage of examples. Meerkats, whose societies are rich enough to have sustained a wildly popular television series — Meerkat Manor — don't weigh in with a whole lot of gray matter relative to their body size. The same holds true for hyenas and mongooses — albeit without the TV following. Bears, small cats and weasels, on the other hand, pack a lot of brain into their heads yet prefer to go it alone. (See pictures of animals in love.)

The problem with the old study, the researchers believe, was its overemphasis on dogs and its use of living species alone. Canines have co-evolved with humans, growing more social as we selected for those traits. That essentially skewed the results, and the absence of fossil ancestors from the data meant there was no information about whether the brains of the earliest dogs grew or shrank or did both over time. Finarelli and Flynn acknowledge that the modern canine brain has grown along with its sociability, but they do not know which is the cause and which is the effect — or if the two things are linked in any meaningful way at all.

That's not to say that the shape of the brain tells you nothing about the characteristics of social species, particularly when the species in question are primates. Studies from the 1990s that have stood up over time showed that among social apes like gorillas and chimps, brain and behavior evolve in ways peculiar to an individual's sex. Males have more bulk in the region of the brain connected with aggression and competition and less in the region that tempers those tendencies — which better equips them for the socially competitive world into which they're born. Females have more heft in the neocortex, a higher-order region that wires them for complex tasks like nurturing and reading social cues. Again, it's not clear whether brain size drove traits or vice versa, but they do appear linked.

But none of this suggests that within a species — Homo sapiens, say — brain size tells you a lick about intellect. Across the centuries, eugenicists and practitioners of other junk sciences argued that cranial volume could reveal important things about the intelligence or other traits of one race compared with another. That was rubbish. The new carnivore studies, by contrast, offer a tantalizing window into the things that help an entire species evolve the way it does — or, more important, the things that don't."

Source and Video

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chimpanzee Owner, Jeanne Rizzotto Files Bankruptcy

JEANNE RIZZOTTO files for chapter 11 bankruptcy

On May 27, 2009, JEANNE RIZZOTTO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filer is being represented by Jon R. Binney.

Complete coverage of the case is available to subscribers (Subscribe now). Coverage includes:
  • Every docket item and document
  • Asset amounts
  • Liability amounts
  • Court, judge, and case number

You can also purchase a summary of this case for only $ 29.99 (click here).


Chimpanzees Trained, But Not Domesticated

Here is a video of the some of the history and present time of how we portray chimps. When small, they are cute, adorable and so human-like. They can be trained to do human activities with their own funny antics which makes us laugh and want to see more. This also makes a small minority of people want one, thinking that they will always be this way. This is so far from the truth, because as they grow older, aggression sets in, dominance and the need to be a chimp over rides the want to please their human caretakers. Once this happens, the Chimp becomes dangerous to others which then makes it dangerous for them, as in the Travis, Sandra Herold case.
Chimpanzees can be trained, however they can never be domesticated. This is something we all need to remember the next time we watch a funny chimp on TV, thinking, where has this chimp come from and where will this chimp end up? Once you have those thoughts, it won't be funny anymore.

This short video takes us back through time with many chimps that played roles in commercials and movies along side of movie stars. I do want to warn you that the first 15 seconds or so are from the horrible day of the Travis tragedy.

Source and Video

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barbary Monkeys Attack Family

The Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus) is a macaque with only a stub of a tail. Found in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco with a small, possibly introduced, population in Gibraltar, the Barbary Macaque is one of the best-known Old World monkey species. Besides humans, they are the only primates that live freely in Europe. Although the species is commonly referred to as the "Barbary Ape", the Barbary Macaque is a true monkey, not an ape.


A family needed hospital treatment after a pack of Gibraltar apes savagely attacked them.

Kim and Joe Castro were forced to protect their sons Sam, three, and six-year-old Jack as the animals pounced on them, biting and scratching with their sharp claws.

The family said they were ignoring the barbary macaques, at the Rock of Gibraltar, before they launched the attack on steep steps near the top of the Rock.

Castro family who were attacked by apes in Gibraltar

Savage attack: Kim Castro (left) with sons Sam and Jack and husband Joe (right). The family were attacked by a pack of rampaging apes in Gibraltar

The animals are famed as a tourist attraction and, although wild, they are used to tourists, who are warned not to feed them.

The Castros, who were visiting Gibraltar while they holidayed in Spain were on their way to a cable car station when the apes struck, Kim, 37, explained.

The legal assistant said: 'Joe was in front with Sam and I was a bit further back with Jack. We were aware of all the advice about not to goad or feed the monkeys and the ones we had seen earlier were fine.

'We were just walking past this group, being quiet, not paying them any attention when one of them launched itself at Joe.

Do not feed the apes, monkey warning sign

Understated! Mother Kim Castro said they were aware of advice not to feed the monkeys but one ape launched itself at Joe as they minded their own business

'The ape was going crazy and Joe was trying to protect Sam, who was hysterical, as well as himself and this set the others off.'

Kim told how the apes pounced on the children, attacking them with teeth and claws, as they tried to fend them off.

'There were about five or six of them and they were extremely strong. I was afraid for our lives both from the attack and the steep drop.'

Lorry driver Joe, aged 36, was bitten on the head, while Kim was left with huge bruises and cuts.

Kim Castro shows her bruises inflicted by apes in Gibralta

Injured: Kim Castro was left with huge bruises and cuts

While the parents managed to save Sam from injury, Jack had a chunk bitten out of his arm.

Kim said: 'We kept our heads down and retreated. They eventually backed off.

'There was a lot of blood. It was very distressing.'

She was worried about rabies but was told by a vet that the apes had been vaccinated. The family were taken to hospital.

Kim said: 'Jack¹s wound was too wide to stitch, so they bandaged it up. The surgeon said he would be scarred for life.'

The family returned home yesterday.


Chimpanzees, Smartest

Do You Know what is the world's smartest animal ever?? or have you ever wondering what is the smartest animal in this world?? this might be a great list of the world's smartest animal written by Bryan Johnson. We Hope that you enjoy this list of World's Smartest Animal Ever.

Earth is full of a wide variety of creatures. Living organisms need to hear, think, see, and adapt with precision in order to evolve, flourish, and survive on this planet. The animal kingdom is built around primates, mammals, rodents, cetaceans, marsupials, birds, reptiles, and mollusks, to name a few. As humans, we pride ourselves on being the dominate thinkers and smartest species. This has lifted us to the top of the food chain, but many animal populations have also been successful in breeding, expanding, and adapting to world and climate conditions. It is amazing to see that some animals actually have a certain sense of natural phenomenon that is unknown to humans. The best example of this is the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Many species of animals were seen heading for the hills before any tsunami danger was evident to humans. Animal populations are much smarter then many humans give them credit for. They have languages, mannerisms, rules, and goals for survival. Here is a list of the Top 10 Smartest Animals and the reasons why they are so special.


These animals can be found in the tropical forests and wet savannas of Western and Central Africa. Chimpanzee’s learn, perform organizational thinking tasks, and have a better memory then any other animal. They have been known to defeat college educated people in memory exams. They can be taught to use computers to solve numerical problems. This animal can quickly adapt and perform sign language to communicate with humans. Chimps have been observed using advanced knowledge of tools. This includes creating spears to retrieve animals out of small holes in trees, using branches to lure and catch prey, using stones to crack nuts, and leaf sponges to soak up water. They have been viewed using tactical attack maneuvers, such as flanking their prey. They often use mental manipulation within their families. The Chimpanzee Genome Project was completed in 2005. It showed that chimps share 98% of the same genetic DNA as humans. It has been approximately four to six million years since humans and chimpanzee’s diverged from their common evolutionary ancestor. Recently, chimpanzees have been seen teaching sign language to their infants without human interference. We have just begun to understand the chimpanzees true mental capabilities."

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Monkeys, New Lab Rats

New Delhi: Mice are facing competition from monkeys as the animal of choice in genetic engineering tests to determine how diseases such as Huntington’s—a fatal disorder—and muscular dystrophy are passed on.
Gene integration: (1) Hisui, (2) Wakaba, (3) Kei (left) and Kou, and (4) Banko are five transgenic marmoset offspring. When observed in ultraviolet light, the skin on the soles of their feet glows green. E Sasaki

Gene integration: (1) Hisui, (2) Wakaba, (3) Kei (left) and Kou, and (4) Banko are five transgenic marmoset offspring. When observed in ultraviolet light, the skin on the soles of their feet glows green. E SasakiJapanese scientists have been able to breed genetically engineered monkeys that can pass on their artificially inherited genes to their offspring, says a report in the next issue of Nature.
This means colonies of primates expressing a particular gene can be bred and they may serve as more accurate animal models for genetically acquired diseases that plague humans. Unlike mice, primates are genetically much closer to humans.
Erika Sasaki, of the Central Institute for Experimental Animals at Kawasaki in Japan, and her colleagues used viral DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) as a delivery vehicle to introduce the gene for the green fluorescent protein (GFP) into the DNA of the common marmoset, a primate species found in South America.
Because it lights up when exposed to green light, scientists can easily check if the GFP gene is carried on to future generations. Sasaki’s team showed that the gene was completely integrated into the monkey’s DNA and successfully carried on to its offspring.
Though marmosets aren’t genetically as close to humans as apes and macaques are, they are much better models than rodents, say scientists.
“Genetic and physiological differences between primates and mice—including their neurophysiological functions, metabolic pathways and drug sensitivities—hamper the extrapolation of results from mouse disease models to direct clinical applications in particular, genetically-modified primates would be a powerful human disease model for preclinical assessment of the safety and efficacy of stem-cell or gene therapy,” the authors say in their report.
Unlike other primates, marmosets have short gestation periods, reach sexual maturity within a year and can produce up to 80 babies, compared with the 10 a rhesus macaque can produce, all of which make them ideal candidates for modelling the progress of a disease.
The scientists have already identified disease targets. “Our first target is Parkinson’s disease and probably Huntington’s disease,” Sasaki said in a conference call with reporters.
Experts call it a big step forward. “It’s certainly a significant achievement,” said Vinod Scaria, a researcher at the Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, a government body.
Scaria is part of an Indian project that’s scanning the zebrafish genome to look for genes that cause human disease. “The big roadblock to using primates was that it was hard to pass on genes onto germ lines (the sex cells). That’s why we are making do with mice and zebrafish, which produce many progeny.”
R. Medhamurthy, convener of the primate research centre at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, said the study was “exciting”, but it was unlikely that mice would be done away with any time soon. “While this certainly means better models for diseases, it’s not easy procuring primates and monkeys for research. Mice are easy to get and because they’ve been used for so many years, there are several standard protocol that govern tests. This is a big step forward, but we have to see how wieldy this technique of using viral DNA is.”


Pet Chimpanzee Owners, Judie Harrison, Gini Valbuena, Sandra Herold

According to a census conducted by the Primate Rescue Center, it's estimated that there are 235 privately owned chimpanzees in the U.S. The same study, compiled by April Truitt, who runs the Kentucky-based center, found that the owners of about 70 chimps said they would give them up to a good home if they could.

The only option for these animals -- too wild to remain in a home and too domesticated to reside in the wild or even a zoo -- is a chimp sanctuary, also known as a chimp retirement home. Finding a home for a chimp isn't easy (the nation's sanctuaries are nearly full with more than 600 chimpanzees, Truitt recently told the Associated Press). Many sanctuaries have reported an influx of calls following extensive media coverage of Travis, a pet chimp that suddenly attacked Stamford, Conn., resident Charla Nash in mid-February.

But despite the struggles such centers face (most sanctuaries offer opportunities to donate or volunteer -- click here to make a donation to the Primate Rescue Center), chimp retirement homes continue to be safe spaces where domesticated chimps can live out safe and happy existences. We decided to peek inside a few.


Life Ascending -Evolution

Found at

How did we come to be here, conscious animals on a planet bursting with life? There's a long story and a short one. The long story is our planet's history, a 4.5 billion year epic of unimaginable complexity that defies being told in a single book. Then there's the short story, the story of the few seminal "inventions" of evolution from which everything else flowed. I outline this story in my new book, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution.

Of course anyone can choose their own list of life's great inventions, and my list is personal, however well I may justify it. Nonetheless, each of these inventions transfigured the world, ultimately making our own existence possible. Here's the short story.

1. The Origin of Life

A 30-metre tall active alkaline vent.
Reproduced with permission from
Deborah S. Kelley and the Oceanography
The origin of life is one of biology's biggest conundrums. How prebiotic chemistry gave rise to biochemistry, how the first cells formed, what kind of energy first powered metabolism and replication -- all these questions are serious challenges. Remarkably, all are answered in broad brush stroke by the amazing properties of alkaline hydrothermal vents, which form naturally chemiosmotic, self-replicating mineral cells with catalytic walls. They concentrate organics, including nucleotides, in impressive quantities, making them the ideal hatcheries for life.

2. DNA

DNA is unique. RNA, chemically very similar, is far more unstable and reactive and couldn't encode organisms much more complex than a virus. For life to get going, DNA was needed. How a primordial RNA world gave rise to DNA and proteins is one of the great questions in biology. Yet a "code within the codons" gives suggestive clues to the origin of DNA and also points to life's origin in alkaline hydrothermal vents. A deep distinction in DNA replication mechanisms and other traits imply that bacteria and archaea emerged independently from a common ancestor in the vents.

3. Photosynthesis

Without photosynthesis life couldn't get very far. Photosynthesis provides both the fuel and oxygen for respiration -- and only aerobic respiration generates enough energy to support multicellular life. Oxygenic photosynthesis arose just once in the history of evolution, in cyanobacteria. The trick demands an elaborate biochemical scheme to extract electrons from water and thrust them onto carbon dioxide. Without that improbable pathway, we would not be here.

4. The Complex Cell

Living stromatolites, constructed by

Image: Courtesy of Catherine Colas des
Francs-Small University,
Western Australia.
All complex life on Earth is composed of nucleated cells, known as eukaryotic cells. The eukaryote arose only once, and bacteria normally show no tendency towards morphological complexity. The last common ancestor of eukaryotic cells was a chimera, formed in a unique union between two prokaryotic cells called endosymbiosis -- a non-Darwinian mechanism whereby organisms converge rather than diverge. Without that chimera, evolution may never have progressed beyond bacteria, and again none of us would be here.

5. Sex

Sex is absurd. It costs a small fortune to find a partner, transmits foul venereal diseases and parasitic genes, and randomises successful allele combinations. Worse, sex requires males, viewed by implacable feminists and evolutionists alike as a waste of space. Why we all have sex anyway was seen as the queen of evolutionary problems in the 20th century. Recent work shows that over time all complex species would degenerate like the Y chromosome without sex. The details help explain why sex first arose, enabling early eukaryotes to thrive.

6. Movement

Muscles set animals apart. They power grazing and predation and make food webs a reality. The proteins responsible for contractility -- actin and myosin -- are ubiquitous in eukaryotes and even in bacteria, propelling amoebae around, supporting plant cells, and helping bacteria divide. Actin forms dynamic cross links in much the same way that variant haemoglobin distorts red cells in sickle-cell anaemia. Selection fashioned such spontaneous quirks into the might of muscle.

7. Sight

A fruit fly's eye
Image: Courtesy of Walter
Gehring, Biozentrum, University of Basel,
Sight may well have been the driving force behind the Cambrian explosion, when the first animals leapt into the fossil record about 550 million years ago. Thanks to a series of surprises in molecular biology, we now know how eyes evolved in great detail. Lens proteins and crystals were recruited from an astonishing range of sources, from calcite to mitochondria to stress proteins, but the ubiquitous light-sensitive protein rhodopsin probably evolved in algae, where it is used to calibrate light levels in photosynthesis.

8. Hot Blood

Endothermy drives a supercharged lifestyle, making our own 24/7 dynamism possible. Many small mammals eat as much in a day as a lizard does in a month. A big benefit is stamina, but there is no necessary connection between stamina and resting metabolic rate, and theropods like Velociraptor may have had the best of both worlds. One driver for endothermy may have been diets rich in carbon but low in nitrogen, such as leaves. Herbivores gain enough nitrogen from leaves if they eat a lot and jettison the excess carbon. Endotherms cleverly burn it off, gaining stamina while subsisting on a lower quality diet.

9. Consciousness

Consciousness is the most subversive evolutionary adaptation. It enabled us to transform the world -- but there are still deep uncertainties about what it actually is. We don't know yet how neurons firing in the brain can generate a feeling of anything: what, if anything, a feeling is in physical terms. This is what philosophers call the "hard problem," and some say answering it requires a radical overhaul of the laws of physics. The answer may lie in bees, which have complex neural reward systems -- they may not be truly conscious, but if they feel anything at all, they already possess the physiological rudiments of consciousness.

10. Death

Without death, natural selection would count for nothing, and life could never have evolved at all. Without cell death, or apoptosis, multicellular organisms are not possible. The key to both is mitochondria. They generate reactive free radicals that slowly undermine health, but in the short term optimise respiration, enhancing fitness when young. The penalty for vigour in youth is decrepit old age. There's hope. Birds leak fewer free-radicals, and live longer than mammals, without losing their vigour. The anti-aging pill may not a myth.

Are these the best ten evolutionary inventions? You might disagree, but each one on my list transformed our planet, overwriting previous revolutions with new layers of complexity. Each dominates our lives today, each is scientifically and culturally iconic, and each evolved by natural selection. While fascinating in their own right, together they tell the remarkable story of life on Earth. More dramatic, more compelling, more intricate than any creation myth, this story has the added advantage of being, to a first approximation, true.

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, by Nick Lane, Profile Books, London, 2009. 288 pp. ISBN: 978-1-861-97848-6. £18.99.

Nick Lane is a biochemist and honorary reader at University College London. His previous books include Oxygen and Power, Sex, Suicide, and he's been described by Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek as "a writer who's not afraid to think big -- and think hard." Lane's current research is on the constraints imposed by chemiosmosis in the origin and evolution of the eukaryotic cell.


Chimpanzees Tell Right from Wrong

Justice: Chimpanzees punish those who break their groups' strict rules

Similarly, mice react more strongly to pain when they have seen another mouse in pain.

‘The belief that humans have morality and animals don’t is a long-standing assumption, but there is a growing amount of evidence that is showing us that this simply cannot be the case,’ Prof Bekoff told the Sunday Telegraph.

‘Just as in humans, the moral nuances of a particular culture or group will be different from another, but they are certainly there.

‘Moral codes are species specific, so they can be difficult to compare with each other or with humans.’

His conclusions will provide ammunition for animal welfare groups pushing to have creatures treated more humanely."


Holly the Chimpanzee

Mogo Zoo’s female chimpanzee Holly opening a birthday present.

Holly the chimpanzee’s latest public appearance, before going into quarantine, was a celebratory event.

Mogo Zoo’s only female chimpanzee, at the moment, celebrated her 21st birthday on Monday with zookeepers, volunteers and zoo visitors.

Among the presents were bananas, apples, books and soft toys, along with a carry bag for Holly to use.

Holly’s companion, 27-year-old Luis, also received presents for the occasion, some placed in unusual places such as in a pinata.

Holly and Luis will be joined by two older chimpanzee in the coming days, with all four chimpanzees to go into quarantine for more than one month.

Mogo Zoo head zookeeper Hannelie van der Merwe said new chimpanzees Sam and Charlie would join Holly and Luis in the near future.

Sam and Charlie have been brought in from New Zealand. The arrival of the new chimpanzees also means the long awaited chimpanzee display enclosure will become the primates’ new playground."


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chimps and Human Speech Studies Suggest a Theory, Brain Processes Speech and Language

A review of human and non-human primate studies suggests that scientists are very close to forming a conclusive theory about the brain processes speech and language.

London, May 27 : A review of human and non-human primate studies suggests that scientists are very close to forming a conclusive theory about the brain processes speech and language.

Dr. Josef Rauschecker of Georgetown University

and his co-author Sophie Scott, a neuroscientist at University College, London, say that both human and animal studies have confirmed that speech is processed in the brain along two parallel pathways, each of which run from lower- to higher-functioning neural regions.

The authors describe these pathways as the "what" and "where" streams, which are similar to how the brain processes sight, but are located in different regions.

Both pathways begin with the processing of signals in the auditory cortex, located inside a deep fissure on the side of the brain underneath the temples - the so-called "temporal lobe".

Information processed by the "what" pathway then flows forward along the outside of the temporal lobe, and the job of that pathway is to recognize complex auditory signals, which include communication sounds and their meaning (semantics).

The "where" pathway is mostly in the parietal lobe, above the temporal lobe, and it processes spatial aspects of a sound - its location and its motion in space - but is also involved in providing feedback during the act of speaking.

Rauschecker says that auditory perception - the processing and interpretation of sound information - is tied to anatomical structures.

"Sound as a whole enters the ear canal and is first broken down into single tone frequencies, then higher-up neurons respond only to more complex sounds, including those used in the recognition of speech, as the neural representation of the sound moves through the various brain regions," he says.

"In both species, we are using species-specific communication sounds for stimulation, such as speech in humans and rhesus-specific calls in rhesus monkeys. We find that the structure of these communication sounds is similar across species," he adds.

Rauschecker believes that the findings of this research may ultimately yield some valuable insights into disorders that involve problems in comprehending auditory signals, such as autism and schizophrenia.

"Understanding speech is one of the major problems seen in autism, and a person with schizophrenia hears sounds that are just hallucinations. Eventually, this area of research will lead us to better treatment for these issues," Rauschecker says.

The study is published in the June issue of Nature Neuroscience."


Torture Discussion Should Include Treatment of Chimpanzees

I first learned about torture when I was 9 years old. My father helped his family escape from Iran because of concerns that they would be captured, imprisoned and tortured for their religious beliefs.

Today, as a physician who treats survivors of torture, I have patients whose stories are all too similar to those I heard as a child. And sadly, I still hear terrible accounts of torture through my dad.

That's why the pride I have as an American grew when the Obama administration committed to closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. I breathed a sigh of relief at the admission that abuses such as waterboarding are torture.

But as our country comes to grips with how we treat human prisoners, I believe it's also time to reconsider how we treat our closest living relatives – chimpanzees – when they are forced to live in captivity.

My concerns were amplified recently when the federal government cited New Iberia Research Center, the largest primate research center in the United States, for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Chimpanzees are remarkably similar to us in their capacity to form social bonds, family and culture. Like us, they are empathic and can be altruistic. Perhaps most important, they suffer as we do.

Torture leaves many scars. Injuries are not only physical, though. All too frequently, human survivors suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or other psychiatric disorders.

Post-traumatic stress disorder has also been diagnosed in chimpanzees. As a result of their use in research, chimpanzees are taken from their mothers at an early age, deprived of normal relationships, and subjected to repeated physical trauma. In a purely observational study, my colleagues and I demonstrated that chimpanzees previously used in experiments display signs of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other anxiety disorders.

Recently, I read about chimpanzees kept in cages smaller than the size of a table, deprived of ordinary social contact, and subjected to grotesque abuses. They were intoxicated with psychotropic drugs and covered in corn syrup to see if this would stimulate sexual activity between the chimpanzees despite their barren confinement. One chimpanzee was referred to by laboratory personnel as "The Lump" because he was so depressed and would not move. I can't imagine the humiliation and pain he must have suffered.

Despite the intention of an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act in 1985, the psychological well-being of chimpanzees cannot be supported in a laboratory environment.

Today, approximately 1,000 chimpanzees live in laboratories in the United States. Although some laboratories have improved physical conditions for chimpanzees, a recent undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States demonstrated that New Iberia Research Center grossly violated the welfare of nonhuman primates, including chimpanzees.

The United States and Gabon are the only countries still using chimpanzees for invasive research. One reason is that, although they share approximately 99 percent of our DNA, chimpanzees differ significantly from us in genetic expression and physiology. These differences make chimpanzees a poor model for human diseases.

More than two decades of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine research using chimpanzees has failed to produce a human vaccine against HIV. Instead, HIV research involving chimpanzees has provided misleading information, resulting in harm to humans. Research funding would be better spent on modern testing methods.

The Great Ape Protection Act, recently reintroduced in Congress, would phase out invasive research on chimpanzees. This overdue legislation would prohibit isolation, social deprivation, and other procedures detrimental to the health and psychological well-being of chimpanzees. It would also require the release of federally owned chimpanzees to sanctuaries and make permanent the federal moratorium on breeding chimpanzees for research.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to testify at the hearing of a woman who I evaluated for evidence of torture. After she was granted asylum, she whispered in my ear that she was finally free - despite the fact that she had contracted HIV as a result of the trauma she endured. I've never admired a woman more.

I also can't help but wish for the day that chimpanzees like "The Lump" are free to live out the rest of their lives with the dignity they deserve. What an even prouder nation we'd be.


Hope Ferdowsian is director of research policy for the vegan organization Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 5100 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20016; Web site:

This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rockhampton Council to Vote on New Chimpanzee Enclosure

The Rockhampton Regional Council will consider a recommendation to build a new chimpanzee enclosure at the city's zoo and to look for mates for the existing chimps.

The council has been considering the future of the zoo at the Botanic Gardens.

This afternoon's council meeting is expected to vote on a recommendation to build a new million dollar facility, to replace the enclosure built in the mid 1980's that has been found to not meet Biosecurity Queensland requirements.

The council will also consider trying to find female chimpanzees so that a breeding program can be established."


Shipping Primates From China, Selling Them to Medical Vivisectors

The company targeted, located in Reno, Nevada, admits to shipping the animals from China and selling them to medical vivisectors; they would not confirm the attack or state whether the devices resulted in significant damages to their operations.

The communique reads:
"In the early morning hours of May 18th, four incendiary devices were planted at Scientific Resources International, a supplier of non-humyn primates for use in vivisection labs all over northern Nevada. The concept of animals existing as "resources" is utterly despicable, and we vow to do all in our power to run businesses like these into the ground. "For only a fool would cling to this world as it is" --ALF

The Animal Liberation Front is a clandestine group of animal liberationists who utilize economic sabotage in addition to the direct liberation of animals from conditions of abuse and imprisonment. By making it more expensive to trade in the lives of innocent beings, the ALF maintains the atrocities are likely to occur in smaller numbers; their goal is to abolish the exploitation, imprisonment, torture and killing of innocent, non-human animals.

Vivisection, or experimentation on animals, is not only an evil that is perpetrated on millions of innocent animals, but is also scientifically fraudulent. While 20,000 children worldwide die every month from lack of access to clean water, vivisectors in University of California laboratories are wasting money addicting primates to crystal methamphetamines, gluing coils to the globes of their eyes and doing other inhumane and painful experiments on other species of animals, including cats, dogs, pigs, mice and birds."


Bonobo Apes and Locals All Benefit

Bonobo. Photo by: Jeffry Oonk.

Lounging bonobo in Kokolopori reserve. Photo by: Jeffry Oonk.

A partnership between local villages and conservation groups, headed up by the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), has led to the creation of a new 1,847 square mile (4,875 square kilometer) reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The reserve will save some of the region’s last pristine forests: ensuring the survival of the embattled bonobo—the least-known of the world’s four great ape species—and protecting a wide variety of biodiversity from the Congo peacock to the dwarf crocodile. However, the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve is worth attention for another reason: every step of its creation—from biological surveys to reserve management—has been run by the local Congolese NGO and villages of Kokolopori.

I. ‘To me the first thing, it’s very simple, you give the local people the control’.
The establishment of nature reserves often leads to conflict with local people, sometimes lasting generations. Traditionally governments and conservation organizations delineate park boundaries so that they avoid all human populations, or in some cases even remove people from the parks. Local people—who may have enjoyed traditional rights in the parks for centuries—are suddenly told they can no longer hunt, fish, or collect resources in the park. Programs are often established to aid local people or repay them for their losses, but many of these prove less-than-adequate.

The situation in Kokolopori could not be more different. In partnership with BCI, locals have been involved in every decision regarding the new reserve. BCI, a ground-breaking conservation group, was also responsible for the establishment of Sankuru Reserve in the DRC. Larger than Massachusetts, Sankuru Nature Reserve made headlines in 2007 for its importance to conservation and its focus, like Kokolopori, on working with local communities. However Kokolopori has taken local community involvement to a new level.

“To me the first thing, it’s very simple, you give the local people the control,” Michael Hurley, executive director and vice president of BCI, told “Give them the education and teach them modern conservation science to facilitate their doing it, but also give them the resources so they can take control, and that’s often the step that’s missed. I’ve heard it said so often, ‘well, we want to work with that group there, but they really don’t have the capacity to do the kinds of things we need to do’. And my response is, ‘well, there’s the problem, focus on building their capacity as opposed to just imposing conservation programs’.”

One way in which BCI builds capacity is by crafting close partnerships with local NGOs, in this case Vie Sauvage.
“It is important to emphasize up front that BCI could not have accomplished this without the leadership of Albert Lokasola, a visionary leader, and President of Vie Sauvage, a locally based NGO,” says Hurley, “ An important aspect of BCI’s approach is to support, nurture, and facilitate local leaders, and commit to long-term partnerships.”

The people of Kokolopori have long known what it is like to be ignored by the outside world. Suffering through the decade-long Congo war, they have never known steady access to health care or education. In addition, the war disrupted their ability to sell agricultural crops—a livelihood they had depended on. It was in the midst of this situation that the people of Kokolopori decided to protect their forests as a reserve rather than exploit them for profit. Albert Lokasola, President of Vie Sauvage, approached BCI in 2001 seeking support with local conservation efforts. The Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve became not only welcome news for conservation efforts but humanitarian ones as well, since innovative programs have given the people of Kokolopori the chance of a better life.

During preliminary studies in the region it become increasingly clear that a nature reserve which did not directly benefit local people would not be viable or desirable to any party involved. So, BCI began to create its own version of forest reserves that incorporated local human communities. BCI sought partnerships not only with the local communities, but also with local NGOs, Vie Sauvage. During every step in the reserve’s creation BCI turned more-and-more to the strength and dedication of the Congolese.

“The most important thing is [the Congolese] need to understand that they are the ones who have control. And that can only be done by building up relationships over the years and by constant proofs to the partners that you really are giving them control. And when that’s done, a foundation is built for real sustainability,” Hurley says.

II. ‘People who live in the forest know the forest better’.

From the very beginning, BCI solidified their relationship with locals. The first thing an organization must do before proposing a protected area is to survey the region’s biodiversity.

Kokolopori Reserve lies south of the Congo River in DRC’s Cuvette Centrale, a region of lowland tropical forest and wetlands. The reserve was known to have bonobos, but the actual number remained a mystery. In addition other species in the reserve needed to be identified. But unlike most biological surveys, which are often conducted by foreign scientists, this survey was undertaken largely by the local Congolese.

“What we believe is that people who live in the forest know the forest better,” Hurley says. “If I were going to go to Montana to photograph elk, I’d hire a local guide. So, [the Congolese] generally can collect a lot more data, they really observe the forest and know it more, and if you combine that with the science and technical skills—which we provide the training for—then we get a lot more information.”

Through training programs, BCI educated locals in GPS, surveying technology, and line transects. The training remained useful even after the initial surveys were finished.

“Once [the locals] started working on surveys with us then we tried to keep funding them, so in a sense it’s their equipment, they’re doing the work, and they’re being paid for it. That money is being dispersed through the community as well,” Hurley says. “They continue to act as ambassadors for conservation, and then we…convert many of the survey team members into monitors.”

Once a bonobo site is discovered, monitors are assigned to the area to protect the bonobos from hunters. Currently there are 70 local monitors overseeing a number of bonobo sites.

III. ‘How do you tell these local people who are poor and starving they should not hunt A –B –and -C?’

To work with the local people effectively, BCI developed the Information Exchange program, which facilitates a dialogue between the local people and conservationists. The Information Exchange program has been vital for identifying the true needs of Congolese in the region. As an example of the importance of Information Exchange, Hurley points to a water well that was almost built.

“One of our folks was in the village and the women were carrying water…it was about 3 ½ hours of work starting at sunrise: trekking down to a river area, collecting water, and bringing back all these heavy, heavy containers of water on their head to the village. The idea was…we should look at getting investment to build a well in the village. Now traditionally, what might be done is a socio-economic study: take a look around, look at what the needs are, and then develop a project and go in and build that well. But in this process what we found was the women said…‘oh, wait a minute that’s the only time we all get together away from the village and get to talk about our husbands’—and they bring their kids and the kids play in the water and everyone washes and the women share stories…it’s their time away, and they said ‘you know that really would not be good for us’. It’s that kind of sharing, that kind of knowledge asopposed to imposing things that we think are best for them.”

Hurley believes the Information Exchange program could help conservationists around the world to learn how to really communicate with local peoples about their needs. According to Hurley, many conservationists “go in and do biodiversity studies and then do socio-economic studies and then they talk about stakeholder engagements, but what it usually ends up being is they hold some meetings and tell local people what they are going to do. Information exchange is about going in and working with local people first in a language they understand, sharing with them, and, most importantly, building upon their own systems of knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and practices,” Hurley explains.

Once trust is established between locals and the environmental organization through communication programs like the Information Exchange then much of the work that would traditionally be done by conservationists is taken on by locals.

“Someone asked Sally [Jewell Coxe, co-founder and president of BCI] awhile ago, ‘how do you tell these local people who are poor and starving that they should not hunt A-B-and-C’. And her answer was ‘well, we don’t, their peers and their Congolese do’. That’s it. We build the local leadership and they are the ones that then do this, not us,” Hurley explains.

IV. ‘You can’t ignore health care and education; those are not just extraneous things.’

One of the most important aspects of working with the people of Kokolopori has been efforts to provide better infrastructure, along with education and health-care in a region that had known neither.

BCI has sought to improve infrastructure in Kokolopori by providing an atmosphere of cooperative use of resources between locals and visiting conservationists, essentially instilling the philosophy of ‘we are all in this together’. The reserve’s conservation centers are open for the local people to use, providing the region with its first easy access to communicating with the outside world.

“Even though the conservation centers are primarily to support the work of BCI and Vie Sauvage, they’re for the local people, who use them. So unlike parks where you have park headquarters but the people have to knock on the door and ask permission, these are really sites that are of and for the people,” Hurley explains.

According to BCI’s strategic plan the access to radio and satellite phone has transformed the region: “Before BCI installed an HF radio at Kokolopori and provided a satellite phone to Vie Sauvage, the only means of long-distance communication was talking drums.”

Providing better access to education, including higher education, has also been a vital component of BCI’s work in Kokolopori.

“We have supported local schools with material and supplies and roofing,” says Hurley. “As well we have the ISDR-Djolu, the Djolu Institut Superieur de Developpement Rurale, which provides higher level training and education.”

The creation of ISDR was led by Albert Lokasola. The technical college includes coursework in conservation, sustainable agriculture, community development, math, and rural administration.

BCI and its partners have also built the first clinic in the area, called the Bonobo Health Clinic, which includes an on-staff doctor and nurses. The clinic is supported by the Indigo Foundation in Australia and by the Kokolopori-Falls Church Sister City partnership, the first sister cities between the USA and the DRC. The clinic has conducted nutritional studies in the region, which have revealed a protein deficiency in some of the population, a problem that the medical team is striving to correct.

“It has to be a totally holistic approach that addresses things like health care and education, because you can give [local people] a little bit of livelihood support and help them protect their forest, but if their kids are dying of malaria or don’t have medicines, it’s not going to work. They need to have a base,” Hurley says. “You can’t ignore health care and education; those are not just extraneous things.”

V. ‘They are the ones who are controlling this and that generates a huge amount of social capital.’

When BCI entered the region in 2001, they found the villages of Kokolopori devastated by DRC’s long war. All access to markets for agricultural products had been cut, severing the villages’ economy. No products had been going in or out for years. This also led to an up-tick in bushmeat hunting by local peoples for subsistence. BCI and its partners created projects to work with locals to re-invigorate their sustainable agricultural systems and provide access to markets.

One successful program involved working with the region’s staple crop, cassava. When crops were devastated by mosaic disease, which destroyed up to 80 percent of yields, a partnership between BCI, Vie Sauvage, the South-East Consortium for International Development, and the local agricultural cooperative, CAPEC, introduced a new mosaic-disease resistant cassava variety.

As Hurley describes, the new cassava cuttings have been important both for the local people and the forest: “In Kokolopori as in other areas [locals] are cutting into secondary and sometimes primary forests to expand agricultural fields, but they are able to now reduce that agricultural expansion and get higher productivity on smaller plots [with the new cassava cuttings], and then expand the multiplication fields and the other fields which are the people’s. The local people can then also sell the cassava cuttings to other communities and make revenues from that…We are starting to introduce other seed stocks and other crops as well in a planned, carefully phased program that reduces the impact on the forest.”

Other programs have focused on aiding the villages’ women. Through micro-credit programs, BCI and its partners have provided local women with non-electric sewing machines and training. Women are currently selling making and selling dresses locally, while BCI hopes to expand the program internationally. As well, women have been trained in soap-making and salting fish. These micro-credit programs are meant to provide families with additional income and security.

Hurley believes that BCI shows just how much a conservation organization can accomplish, so far, without long lists of wealthy donors by spending wisely and forging important partnerships. Part of the secret is to make certain that communities are aware of where the money is going.

“What’s amazing…is that if the people know we don’t have a huge amount of funding, so even if it’s a little bit of money they know that it goes to them…and they also know…they will have control of it,” Hurley says. “So while they’re hoping for greater funding in the future for many of these programs, even with a small amount of funding it helps motivate and engage the people to be engaged in conservation. But it’s not just the funding, it’s local people’s understanding that they are the ones who are controlling this and that generates a huge amount of social capital.”

VI. ‘It’s outsiders who come in and do commercial bushmeat hunting’.

Wildlife in the DRC currently faces two major threats: habitat loss and hunting. Deforestation for agriculture and logging, including rampant illegal logging, has devastated habitat for many species in the DRC. However, hunting is also a large concern. Congo’s forest elephants have been decimated in recent decades by ivory poachers. Hunting for meat is also on the rise all over central Africa. This practice, known as bushmeat hunting, provides income and protein-rich foods in a part of the world that often lacks both.

While Kokolopori has seen some deforestation due to expanding village agriculture, so far the reserve has avoided attention from logging companies. This has allowed the area to remain relatively pristine compared to other areas in the DRC. But Kokolopori’s wildlife has not been so lucky: “bushmeat hunting is the major threat, and really its commercial bushmeat hunting,” Hurley says.

Hurley adds that although local people hunt, they are largely agriculturists by nature. This fact is something the Congolese have expressed to Vie Sauvage and BCI throughout their meetings in the Information Exchange program.

“It’s logical,” Hurley explains. “While there are spiritual and cultural aspects to some traditional subsistence hunting practices, many locals would much rather get up in the morning and step outside their back door and work in an agricultural field and have improved livestock management, pigs, goats, and chickens. They’d rather have all that outside their back door than spend three or four days in the forest hunting something.”

With increased education and awareness, including the re-establishment of outside markets for their agricultural products and enforcement of hunting regulations, bushmeat hunting by locals will largely become a non-issue. Commercial bushmeat hunting, however, remains a large threat facing the wildlife of Kokolopori.

“In many parts of the Congo and in some parts of Kokolopori it’s outsiders who come in and do commercial bushmeat hunting, they come in and set up camps, they hunt out a forest, and then they smoke the meat, and they transport it, they leave on the river and sell it. And it’s not their forest,” says Hurley.

BCI has increasingly discovered that the key to dealing with bushmeat hunters is reinforcing control by the local authorities. In other words, make the local people, at least in part, responsible for catching and punishing those who invade their forest.

“There are many estimates on how many park guards you need per square kilometer in a certain area, but when you have an entire village, an entire traditional chieftainship, and a hierarchical structure that has certain belief systems and rights, when that whole village is …saying: ‘this is our forest, and we’ve agreed to it, we are agreeing to protect this land’, it’s an awful lot easier” to protect wildlife, according to Hurley. “You, in a sense, have thousands of people who are enforcing the law… [it’s] going to be a lot stronger and a lot more sustainable.”

Kokolopori will also have traditional eco-guards monitoring the reserve through the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), but, as Hurley says, “our work with the ICCN also recently has shown that they truly believe that this new model may be better.”

At the same time, rules and regulations are still being set up across the reserve. Rather than the usual dogma of no hunting—ever—BCI is working on creating a model that incorporates zoning and traditional practices to allow for some sustainable hunting by the local people. However flagship and endangered species, such as bonobos, will remain under protection in all zones.

“What we’ve learned in other protected areas, is that many local people use protected areas as their hunting zones…because they are frustrated by the fact that they have been thrown out,” explains Hurley. “So, we have to have a gradual transition process where certain sustainable hunting practices are allowed. The local people have traditional systems that have maintained sustainability in hunting, such as seasonality or rotating seasons, having certain areas of sacred forests or designated areas where no hunting is allowed. These ancient traditional systems tend to allow wildlife populations to be replenished. But there is still a lot of work to be done in Kokolopori, as there is even in all the old establish protected areas, to really figure out a good system.”

BCI, its partners, and the local people are still working out the different zoning areas for the reserve, but the zones will be modeled on how the locals use different regions and not determined by non-Congolese.

VII. ‘There is no place else like this in the bonobo habitat’

A major goal of Kokolopori reserve is to protect one of the world’s largest remaining populations of bonobos, with well over a thousand thought to inhabit the reserve.

Categorized as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, bonobos are threatened by both habitat loss and bushmeat hunting. Total population estimates vary widely, from 5,000 to 50,000, but the records of bonobo habitat loss are not so variable. It is estimated that the bonobo has only 24 percent of its habitat remaining. While a United Nations study predicted that bonobo habitat would shrink to 4 percent in twenty years, the lowest for any great ape.

Bonobos have become famous for their largely peaceful, egalitarian society, which contrasts starkly with the, at times, warlike nature of chimpanzees. While chimpanzee society is patriarchal and competitive, females actually hold the highest roles in bonobos society, with the top males chosen according to their mothers.

Bonobos are also known for their bi-sexuality and, in turn, their employment of sex as more than just a procreative act. Sex among the bonobos can be used to relieve stress, establish bonds, and let off steam. Having spent decades in the shadow of their closest relative, the chimpanzee, the bonobos are finally getting the attention they deserve. And Kokolopori is arguably the world’s best place to study or see bonobos.

“We’ve had visitors there. And according to ICCN they’ve never seen anything like this in bonobo habitat. Literally within hours of arriving visitors are looking at bonobos. There is no place else like this in the bonobo habitat,” Hurley says. “We have often heard of visitors to other protected areas in the bonobo habitat where it may take many days or be almost impossible to see bonobos. This is not the case in Kokolopori.”

Hurley adds that although Kokolopori “is very rough, very rough, it is where you can see bonobos.” He attributes this to the fact that Kokolopori, unlike other reserves, has had salaried locals monitoring bonobos groups since 2003. Kokolopori is currently working on setting-up limited eco-tourism.

Aside from bonobos, Kokolopori possesses a wealth of biodiversity. Unlike many forest regions in the DRC, Kokolopori has been relatively undisturbed, leaving healthy thriving ecosystems.

Eleven primate species, not including bonobos, have been identified in the reserve. This includes the Salongo monkey Cercopithecus dryas, which has been discovered in the wild for the first time in Kokolopori. Prior to its discovery in the reserve, the species was only known from markets. In fact, its name, Salongo, means ‘market-day’ in the local language, Lingala. Thollon’s red colobus Procolobus tholloni also inhabits the reserves; this species is so little known that the IUCN has yet to determine its status.

The park also includes the African golden cat Profelis aurata, the sitatunga Tragelaphus spekii, the Congo forest buffalo Syncerus caffer nanus, the bongo Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus, the leopard Panthera pardus, and the endangered dwarf crocodile Osteolaemus tetraspis.

Thirteen species of endangered birds have been recorded at Kokolopori, including the gray parrot Psittacus erithacus, which is highly threatened by the pet trade. The reserve also include five near-endemic birds: the Congo peacock Afropavo Congensis listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, the yellow-legged malimbe Malimbus flavipes, the Congo sunbird Nectarinia Congensis , and two martins: the African river martin Pseudochelidon eurystomina and the Congo martinRiparia Ongica.

Forest elephants Loxodonta cyclotis have also been recorded in the reserve, but they “appear to be transient”, says Hurley, who explains that they apparently use Kokolopori as a migration route.

VII. ‘You can’t solve the problem by using the same mindset that created the problem’.

The philosophy of local community engagement and involvement is not only effective according to Hurley but its also relatively inexpensive: “What we have discovered, with so many other folks working in the Congo basin, is some of the big entities say, ‘you know our biggest problem is getting the local communities to work on our programs, to be engaged in our programs’—that’s their biggest problem. You know, we seem to have the solution. We don’t have all the answers, I won’t say that. But we have the solution to part of that problem, we found that we have ways of motivating and engaging local communities, and ironically it’s without much money at all.”

Hurley believes that BCI’s philosophy should not constrained by geographic region, but could be useful in many parts of the world in solving the difficulties that have arisen between protecting nature and respecting the people who live there.

“We have really developed a methodology could be replicated in other parts of the world. In some cases, people talk about it, but they don’t really do it. There’s an Einstein quote that says something like: ‘you can’t solve the problem by using the same mindset that created the problem’. And all too often one goes in with a western mindset geared to developing and designing programs that we simply impose,” Hurley says.

One of the keys to BCI’s work—and one of its most surprising aspects—has been its capacity to spread without any additional effort from BCI.

We provided a training program in Kokolopori, a couple years ago, where we had NGOs and community association members from many different organizations from outside Kokolopori,” Hurley says, gearing up for a good story. “Now one participant took the training and…he went right back to another region far to the west where he worked under a BCI subcontract as part of an Information Exchange team. We learned later that he was so inspired that he went back to his community and utilized his earnings to register an NGO with regional authorities…to protect bonobos and to set the area aside for conservation, and this was without any investment from BCI. That is, it is self-replicating,” Hurley explains. “The local communities are emulating this model, so our projects are self-replicating…and we are promoting systems where they share communications, where the people we’ve trained are training other people.”

One wonders why that same self-replicating process that has occurred on the ground in the jungles of the Congo, could not also occur globally, from the Amazon to Borneo, bringing locals villagers and conservationists together in a common purpose: for a better life and a better world. "

Source and Photographs