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!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Orphan Chimpanzees Successfully Released Into the Wild 2 years ago and are doing great

Six males and six females between eight and 20 years old were released in June 2008. Over two years after the release, nine chimpanzees remain free-living with two males and three females forming a group at the original release site. Two of these females gave birth to healthy offspring and another female successfully integrated into a wild chimpanzee community. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Kent)

The release was the first of its kind to use VHF-GPS store-on-board ARGOS tracking collars to monitor the progress of the chimpanzees. The ARGOS system emits GPS points to satellites downloadable via the internet. It is also only the second time that rehabilitated chimpanzees have been released back into the wild in an area where other wild chimpanzees live.

Dr Tatyana Humle from the University of Kent is the scientific advisor to the project, which is being carried out by the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre in the Haut Niger National Park, Guinea, West Africa. This centre is one of 14 Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA)-accredited sanctuaries caring for chimpanzee victims of the pet and bush meat trade.

Six males and six females between eight and 20 years old were released in June 2008. Over two years after the release, nine chimpanzees remain free-living with two males and three females forming a group at the original release site. Two of these females gave birth to healthy offspring and another female successfully integrated into a wild chimpanzee community.

The release presented a number of challenges for researchers including finding a suitable release area, assessing its overlap with the home range of other wild chimpanzees to minimize competition and the risk of aggression, and ensuring the chimpanzees' ability to survive independently of human assistance.

The GPS points stored on the collars allowed researchers to monitor the chimpanzees' behaviour including their habitat use, day travel range and association patterns. The ARGOS system also facilitated several rescue missions to retrieve chimpanzees when they strayed too far from the protected release site.

The release project has brought significant conservation benefits to the local area. Environmental education and awareness raising programs have been established in and around the park, illegal logging activities have stalled and illegal hunting and fishing activities have been reduced.

Other sanctuaries and conservation centres are set to benefit significantly from the project's pioneering use of new technology.

Dr Humle, from the University's School of Anthropology and Conservation, said: 'This release demonstrates that under special circumstances the release of wild-born adult chimpanzees of both sexes is a viable strategy, which can also function as an effective conservation tool.

'The lessons learnt and the experience gained so far will benefit other sanctuaries that are also considering the option of releasing suitable candidates in the future. We still have much to learn about how rehabilitation, pre- and post-release procedures, and monitoring protocols impact release success. We can only hope that increased collaboration among academics, conservationists and sanctuaries will help bridge these gaps.'
Story Credit Here

Brains of peaceful Bonobo apes differ from those of aggressive chimps - Brian Hare

Photo courtesy of Vanessa Woods/ - Bonobos, an endangered species of primate in Central Africa, are much mellower than chimpanzees.
The striking absence of aggression among one species of ape — bonobos, sometimes called pygmy chimpanzees — may be hard-wired into their brains, a new study suggests.

Though closely related to chimps, the endangered bonobos of central Africa are much mellower.

“They are the only ape in our family that does not kill,” said Brian Hare, an assistant professor who studies chimpanzees and bonobos at Duke University.

In contrast, male chimpanzees have been documented dispatching infants sired by other males. They also stalk and kill outsider chimps, often by stomping the interloper to death.
The much more laid-back bonobos react to stress by sharing, playing and engaging in lots of sex.
“It’s not like they never have antagonistic interactions,” Hare said of the bonobos. “But it’s a joke compared to what you see in chimpanzees.”
Scientists studying apes as a window into human behavior are eager to tease apart these differences, asking how they arose in the 1 million to 2 million years of evolution that separate chimps and bonobos.

The new study, which gathered detailed brain images of both species, hints at an intriguing answer: The brains of bonobos may be wired to chill.
In the study, James Rilling of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, part of Emory University in Atlanta, scanned the brains of 13 living and dead bonobos and chimps. One imaging method, used with the living animals, built pictures of gray matter, the large-scale structures of the brain. The second technique, used on the deceased animals, filled in lines of white matter, the neuronal wires connecting various brain regions.

By combining the images, “you can get at circuits in the brain, how the brain is organized,” Rilling said.

Compared with those of chimps, bonobo brains displayed bigger, more developed regions thought to be vital for feeling empathy, perceiving distress in others and feeling anxiety, Rilling said.

One of these structures, the right anterior insula, is crucial for generating empathy, as people with damage to this region notably lack the ability to perceive how others are feeling, Rilling said.

Even more notably, Rilling said, bonobo brains carry a thick connection between a flash point of emotion and a higher brain region that helps control impulses. This neuronal wire runs from the amygdala, a deep-seated and evolutionarily old emotional center that can spark aggression, to a region called the ventral anterior cingulate cortex, which is thought be important for suppressing impulsive behavior.

Chimp brains displayed a much thinner connection along this aggression-suppression pathway, meaning the channel carries less information.

The thicker connection in bonobos may explain why the animals are “better at regulating [aggressive] impulses and better at avoiding anti-social behavior,” said Rilling, who published the study in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

But “this pathway does not function very well in people who are psychopaths, people with conduct disorder, people who don’t take others’ feelings into consideration,” Rilling said.

Besides being less aggressive than apes, bonobos are notably more anxious. Experts say the urge to soothe this anxiety may be impulse that drives the animals to engage in frequent sex and rough-house play.
The scans highlight a possible source of this anxiety-and-release lifestyle: An enlarged stress-response center called the hypothalamus. This brain region triggers the release of stress hormones and is “strongly implicated” in response to fear and anxiety, Rilling noted.

One question prompted by the study: why the social brains of these two species diverged so dramatically. Emerging theories suggest that bonobos evolved on one side of the Congo River with great food abundance, whereas chimps evolved on the other side of the river where intense competition for food may have driven the apes to fight and claw their way into every fruit tree.

Hare, who was not involved in the study, said the new findings support a theory he is developing that bonobos are “self-domesticated.” Whereas aggressive chimps are akin to wild wolves, he said, bonobos act more like domesticated dogs.

“There’s been a really strong natural selection against aggression in bonobos,” Hare said. “It’s been a natural process.” That process, in turn, may have been driven by the differing environments in which the two species evolved.

Although the study offers tantalizing glimpses into the social evolution of the two species, Rilling acknowledged that the small number of brains he scanned means the results are preliminary. “We really need a larger sample,” he said. “But bonobo brains are hard to come by.”

Experts say fewer than 10,000 bonobos survive in the wild; an additional 84 live in U.S. zoos.
Story Credit here

Chimp-Human Pseudogene

"Science and the Sacred" is pleased to feature essays from various guest voices in the science-and-religion dialogue. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation.

Today's post was written by Dennis Venema and Darrel Falk.

In our previous post, we likened comparing genomes of related organisms to reading alternative history novels. We noted that before two species diverge, they share the same “backstory” but then go on to accumulate changes after separation.

One interesting feature of looking at genomes is that often we can find the mutated remains of once-functional genes. These are called pseudogenes, or “false genes.” Pseudogenes might be part of a shared backstory for two species, or they might crop up independently after two species go their separate ways. Either way, they are easy to spot at the molecular level because they retain a lot of similarity. For example, here are the DNA sequences for the start of one particular gene1 in several species (for our purposes, its function is not important).

As you examine the sequence of letters above, note that DNA contains a four letter code. This string of “letters” is made up of the molecules adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine strung together within the large super-molecule, DNA. Our cells read the encoded instructions and, interpreting the code, build each of the different proteins required for the maintenance of life.

Note that the instructions have changed a little since these five species had a common “backstory” (ancestor). Despite the changes, for the dog, mouse and chicken, the protein is fully functional. This is not so, however, for the chimp and human. The “dot” (highlighted by the red arrow) means that one single letter of the instructions has been deleted. This change would be like finding this sentence in the first edition of a book:

But, in the second edition of the same book, we find this instead:

The sentence has no meaning anymore, but, as we compared the first and second versions of the book, we would be able to tell exactly what had happened: the letter “I” had been deleted from the sentence, and everything following would be messed up. A single deletion throws off the whole code from that point on. Thus, for chimps and humans, the instructions become gibberish, and the protein molecules produced according to that gene’s instructions are now badly mangled and unable to function.

As you go back and examine sequence in the human/chimp pseudogene, notice how both species carry the exact same deletion. This suggests that the occurrence of this single deletion occurred in one individual, a common ancestor with whom both species have a shared backstory.

Let’s return to our book analogy. Presumably all copies of the second edition had the exact same non-functional sentence about the BIG RAT. If someone was to examine two second edition copies of the book, each of which were missing that same letter, “I,” it would be unthinkable to propose that the exact same mistake occurred independently in the printing of each of the two books. Similarly, it would be incorrect to propose that the new incoherent sentence had some important meaning which literary scholars will discover some day. We would know, plain and simple, that a mistake had occurred. Anything other than that would be highly contrived.

Today both chimps and humans carry the exact same mutation because they both have the same backstory. However, it is even more poignant than that. There are 20,000 pseudogenes in the human genome. Each has its own unique backstory. Each can be traced out in the same manner we have just done for this one.
The hypothesis of common ancestry makes precise predictions about how pseudogenes will be distributed in related species. Once a gene has been mutated into a pseudogene in a certain species, that pseudogene with its specific inactivating mutation will be passed on to all descendents of that species.

The figure below demonstrates this for a specific pseudogene, which we will term pseudogene “y.” Note that in a very specific individual at a very specific time, gene “y” underwent a change in its code—it mutated. That altered code was passed on to the subsequent generations and ended up in two daughter species, Species A and Species B.

Now consider a second gene, which we call “x.” It also underwent a mutation, but did so earlier in the lineage. Let’s call the new mutated form of this gene pseudogene “x.” This is shown in the next figure. Since this mutation occurred earlier in the lineage in an organism that was a common ancestor to Species A, B, and C, all three of these species carry the abnormal, non-functional version of “x.” The lineage to species D, however, had already broken away. It does not carry the mutated version of “x.”

Finally, consider another gene, which we’ll call “z.” This gene is perfectly functional in Species A, B, and D. However, when you examine its code in Species C, guess what? It carries a non-functional pseudogene. What do you think has happened here? This is a recent change, so recent that it occurred in an individual whose ancestors only went on to become Species C. Here is a summary figure which illustrates the time at which each of the three mutations occurred and the ramifications of each change.  

In this example, since gene “x” is mutated to a pseudogene in the common ancestor of species A, B and C, we would expect to find this pseudogene, with the same exact inactivating mutation, in these three species. Similarly, the pseudogene version of gene “y” with exactly the same code-change should be found only in species A and B. Finally, there are many cases in which a pseudogene is found only within one species, or, at most, a couple of closely related sister species. Pseudogene “z” is our example of that.

If life really does have a backstory of this sort, then you can see the power of this technique for tracing the lineage. It allows us to trace the history of life, species by species. Interestingly though, there have long been other—non-genetic—ways of tracing life’s history. Biologists have been using these alternative methods for many decades. For example, by examining fossils (paleontology) and tracing changes in body structure (comparative anatomy), the history of life had already been pretty much worked out before DNA sequencing data ever came into the picture.

For the most part, the data which are emerging from DNA sequencing projects simply verify that which biologists have known for years through these other methods of exploring life’s history. Still, the results are extremely gratifying in their consistency. In science, one looks for corroborating evidence. If the DNA data had suggested totally different lineages, then there would have been good reason to doubt the common descent hypothesis. Such is not the case though. The supporting data keep piling up; there is no longer any doubt.
Remember how science works. If there are multiple lines of evidence—each internally consistent with the central overarching principle—a consensus is reached. The theory is judged to be correct and the scientists move on to further explore its ramifications.

If the theory of common descent is true, then it also makes predictions about what we would not expect to find at the genetic level. We go on to explore this topic in our next post.
Information Credit Here

Thursday, April 7, 2011

For chimpanzees, like humans, yawning can be contagious

And new research offers evidence that for these apes picking up a yawn is a sign of social connection.

The researchers showed chimpanzees a video of other chimpanzees and found they yawned more frequently after watching a chimpanzee from their own group yawn than a chimpanzee from another group — evidence that they were more influenced by others with whom they empathized.

Like chimpanzees, humans show more empathy — the ability to understand and share in another's feelings — for members of their own social group. No one has studied whether or not biases like this affect contagious yawning in humans, but the researchers believe we are like our closest living relatives in this regard.

"The idea is that yawns are contagious for the same reason that smiles, frowns and other facial expressions are contagious," the researchers, Matthew Campbell and Frans de Waal of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Georgia, wrote online Wednesday in the journal PLoS ONE. "The mechanism that allows someone to reflexively mimic a smile is thought to also allow for reflexive mimicry of yawns."

Campbell and de Waal showed 23 chimpanzees from two groups video clips of other chimpanzees yawning or doing something else. The chimps yawned 50 percent more frequently in response to video of members of their group yawning versus video of the other group members yawning. The researchers note that the chimps paid more attention to the video of unfamiliar chimps.

It's important to note that humans and chimpanzees have different parameters for determining the insider who elicits empathy and the outsider who doesn't.

Humans define their own social group more broadly than do chimpanzees. So, an unfamiliar person can be included within a human social group, but an unfamiliar chimpanzee is by definition an outsider, they write. (Chimps have also been shown to yawn in response to yawning animated characters ; however, this is likely because the artificial nature of the animation prevented the chimps from perceiving the character as an outsider, Campbell and de Waal write.)

Contagious yawning has been documented in five species, including dogs, which can catch yawns from people.
Information Credit here

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Protecting the gorillas in the logging concession as well as in the Deng Deng National Park is essential

By: Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

NEW YORK (March 28, 2011) – A new census by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) released today reveals a dense and healthy population of western lowland gorillas living in Cameroon's Deng Deng National Park – and an adjacent logging concession.

But the report warns that gorillas need to be protected in both areas if the population is to remain viable.

The census estimated a total of between 300 and 500 gorillas in Deng Deng and the logging concession, with about half living in the park. According to the report, gorillas move freely between the park and logging area. However, a road separates the two areas leaving gorillas vulnerable to poachers.

"Protecting this gorilla population, and guaranteeing its future, absolutely requires protecting the gorillas in the logging concession as well as in the park," said James Deutsch, WCS Director for Africa Programs.

The results of the census came from counts of ape nests along line transects, a standard method for estimating great ape populations. The density of gorillas found in Deng Deng is about the same as Gabon's Lopé National Park and Congo's Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, both well-known ape conservation sites in Central Africa.

Created in 2010, Deng Deng National Park supports the northernmost population of western lowland gorillas and is physically isolated from potential Ebola epidemics that have affected other great ape populations in Central Africa. Chimpanzees, forest elephants, buffaloes, and bongo also occur in the protected area, though poaching and illegal logging have impacted local wildlife numbers.

Roger Fotso, director of WCS's Cameroon Program, said: "For a small area, this is an extremely important site for gorilla conservation. It is also important because this is the northern-most population of western lowland gorillas, and because it is accessible to the capital Yaoundé and so a possible future site for tourism."

WCS is grateful to Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and the French Development Agency AFD for working to protect the gorillas over the past three years.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit:
Information credit here

Why do Chimpanzees and Bonobos have different social traits?

It's been a puzzle why our two closest living primate relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, have widely different social traits, despite belonging to the same genus. Now, a comparative analysis of their brains shows neuroanatomical differences that may be responsible for these behaviors, from the aggression more typical of chimpanzees to the social tolerance of bonobos.

"What's remarkable is that the data appears to match what we know about the human brain and behavior," says Emory anthropologist James Rilling, who led the analysis. "The neural circuitry that mediates anxiety, empathy and the inhibition of aggression in humans is better developed in bonobos than in chimpanzees."

The journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience published the results April 5, the most comprehensive comparative analysis to date of the neural systems of chimpanzees and bonobos.

"By contributing to our basic understanding of how brain anatomy relates to social behavior, this study may provide clues to the brain dysfunction underlying human social behavioral disorders like psychopathy and autism," Rilling says.

Chimpanzees and bonobos diverged from a common ancestor with humans about six million years ago, and from each other just one-to-two million years ago. Despite this relatively brief separation in evolutionary terms, the two species exhibit significant differences in social behavior. Compared with chimpanzees, bonobos are more anxious, less aggressive, more socially tolerant, more playful, more sexual and perhaps more empathic.

"Chimpanzees tend to resolve conflict by using aggression, while bonobos are more likely to use behavioral mechanisms like sex and play to diffuse tension," Rilling says. "The social behaviors of the two species mirror individual differences within the human population."

Rilling heads Emory's Laboratory for Darwinian Neuroscience, a leader in the use of non-invasive neuro-imaging technology to compare the neurobiology of humans and other primates. The lab draws on resources of Emory's Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

"In addition to exploring links between neuroanatomy and different social behaviors, we're mapping the underlying biology for how species evolve and differentiate," Rilling says.

A range of imaging and analytical techniques were used in the chimpanzee-bonobo study. Voxel-based morphometry compared the gray matter in standard structural scans of the brains. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) captured the white matter connections, to compare the fiber tracts that "wire" the brain.

The results showed that bonobos have more developed circuitry for key nodes within the limbic system, the so-called emotional part of the brain, including the amygdala, the hypothalamus and the anterior insula. The anterior insula and the amygdala are both implicated in human empathy.

"We also found that the pathway connecting the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex is larger in bonobos than chimpanzees," Rilling says. "When our amygdala senses that our actions are causing someone else distress, we may use that pathway to adjust our behavior in a prosocial direction."

Chimpanzees have better developed visual system pathways, according to the analysis. Previous research has suggested that those pathways are important for tool use, a skill which chimpanzees appear better at than bonobos.

Provided by Emory University (news : web)
Information Credit Here

Monday, April 4, 2011

A chimpanzee that survives the physical and emotional trauma of capture can take years to recover

A new study, published in the International Journal of Primatology, examines 11 Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) member facilities, predicting their carrying capacity for chimpanzees and provides a roadmap for long term resource, infrastructure and financial planning.

Lead author Lisa Faust, PhD a research biologist with Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo said, "The most sobering part of this study is realizing that most of these institutions already report being at capacity or close to capacity, and yet on average the group of sanctuaries are collectively faced with accepting 56 new chimpanzee arrivals every year, most of them under the age of two to three years old. Because chimpanzees are long-lived, this means that most of the sanctuaries will need to sustain or increase their current size, because they will continue to accept new arrivals as part of their commitment to chimpanzee welfare and law enforcement."

Chimpanzees are an endangered species, and while poaching is illegal it remains a major problem threatening their continued survival.
"PASA sanctuaries play a vital role in helping rescue and rehabilitate chimpanzees and other endangered primates, and that is our main objective," said Doug Cress, executive director of PASA. "But it's easy to get caught up in the day to day fight for survival and lose perspective. This study is so important because it allows us to step back and see where we'll be in the coming years and decades and to plan accordingly. Population modeling on this level is a wonderful tool."

A chimpanzee that survives the physical and emotional trauma of capture can take years to recover. But PASA member sanctuaries accept that long-term commitment, even if the only possible alternative to lifetime care -- reintroduction, the physical return of the chimpanzees back to the forest -- is a difficult and relatively new endeavor.

Chimpanzee reintroduction projects currently underway at PASA sanctuaries in Congo and Guinea have put more than 50 chimpanzees back into the wild, and three Cameroon sanctuaries are preparing to double that number through reintroduction programs in the next few years. But the cost, which can easily double a sanctuary's budget, is just one of the many obstacles to more widespread reintroduction.
Story Credit Here

Humans have more sophisticated brains than Primates because of chemicals

Evolution of cognition might be down to brain chemistry”, Andy Coghlan reports, (New Scientist, 28 March 2011):

Philipp Khaitovich of the Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai, China, and colleagues analysed brain tissue from deceased humans, chimpanzees and rhesus macaques to study the concentrations of 100 chemicals linked with metabolism.

In the human prefrontal cortex, the levels of 24 of these were drastically different from levels in the corresponding brain regions of the other primates. In the cerebellum, however, there were far fewer differences between humans and the other animals, with just six chemicals showing different concentrations.

This suggests that, since our lineage split off from other primates, the evolution of metabolism in the thinking and learning parts of our brains has gone much further than in our “primitive” cerebellum.

I wonder if “‘primitive’ cerebellum” will go the way of “junk” DNA?

The authors may think (they don’t say so directly) that differing brain chemistry is a cause of higher order thinking. It could just as easily be interpreted as a platform for higher order thinking, or even as a consequence of it.
Excerpt: If the error structures of the archaic DNA and one of the modern human DNA samples are similar to each other for one of many reasons, the ABBA-BABA test could report admixture when it did not in fact occur. Even a very small proportion of shared errors could cause a strong effect on the ABBA-BABA statistic. For example, small effects that we typically tend to ignore, such as shared contamination of reagents between the samples, could cause artifactual evidence of admixture.

In this podcast Dr. Patricia Fanning examines the evolutionary claim that humans evolved more sophisticated brains as a result of chemicals other primates did not have.
Story Credit here and video

Friday, April 1, 2011

Is a Monkey, Chimp, Lion or Tiger living next to you?

Readers, I just posted some information today about how you can tell whether a sanctuary is a good or bad one. it's worth reading, just a few posts down. This is NOT a sanctuary!!!!!!!! This is why people get confused about what is good and what is bad. The most important thing is that a Real Sanctuary DOES NOT interact with the animals!! That is not sanction for the animals. Anyone that thinks you can take the wild out of a wild animal is disillusioned! I know I worked with them for over 15 years. Once a wild animal always a wild animal. Look at the Travis/Sandra Herold/Charla Nash case. Travis was like a child to Sandra, she slept with him, lived with him in her home and he did all of the things that humans did but...... one day his wildness came out. Not only did he attack Charla but then tried to go after the person that loved him more than anything, the person that raised him from a baby. You just can't make them domestacted no matter what you do or how long you do it for. I had rescued a toothless monkey once and even with no teeth he broke a few bones in my hand by rapid biting me.

I hope when this movie comes out they don't put a spin on it that makes it look "cool" to own an exotic animal. I once met a tiger that was suppose to be put to death because he had pulled a woman with his paw to the edge of his cage and he ripped her apart through the cage!!!!!. Before the authroites could take the tiger the owners moved him to another facility and that's where I meet him. He was housed alone because he couldn't be trusted with any other tigers. People that own exotic animals should have in their wills to donate their organs because their death will surly come.

Just a few pages into a book given to him by a friend, Michael Webber couldn't believe what he was reading: Thousands of Americans keep exotic wildlife, from tigers to lethally poisonous snakes, in their homes and yards -- absolutely unregulated.

"It just seemed bizarre to me that there are some areas of the country that require you to get a dog license to own a poodle, but in that same area, you can get a tiger and raise it in your home," the Hollywood TV and film producer says by phone from Ohio. "Or you can get a venomous snake, a python, a chimpanzee, and there is absolutely no licensing requirement or oversight. Your neighbor can even stick an elephant in the back yard and there is nothing you can do about it."

The book, "Wildlife Warrior: More Tales Of Suburban Safaris" by former animal-control officer Tim Harrison, became the beginning of an odyssey for Webber, which led to the new documentary, "The Elephant in the Living Room," which opens at selected theaters in Denver next week.

The movie explores the strange and often shadowy world of "exotic" wildlife in the United States, from marketers and auctions to owners who have formed a deep attachment to their "pets." It focuses on Harrison, who has avidly crusaded against ownership and marketing of wildlife, and Terry Brumfield, an Ohio man who raised and kept two African lions, Lambert and Lacey, in his home.

Boulder native Pat Craig, founder of The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesberg, appears in "The Elephant in the Living Room." Camera file photo ( JON HATCH)touching, even cute, but it's anything but. Lambert, the male lion, escapes onto a local highway, where he is reported for chasing down speeding cars (911 operators were understandably incredulous). After that, the authorities give their owner an ultimatum: give the lions away, or keep them penned up. Brumfield, who formed deep emotional attachment to the lions as cubs, when he was recovering from a severe accident, reluctantly keeps them in a cramped, filthy horse trailer, where they live for several months.

Boulder native Pat Craig, founder of The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesberg, appears in "The Elephant in the Living Room." Camera file photo ( JON HATCH)touching, even cute, but it's anything but. Lambert, the male lion, escapes onto a local highway, where he is reported for chasing down speeding cars (911 operators were understandably incredulous). After that, the authorities give their owner an ultimatum: give the lions away, or keep them penned up. Brumfield, who formed deep emotional attachment to the lions as cubs, when he was recovering from a severe accident, reluctantly keeps them in a cramped, filthy horse trailer, where they live for several months.

The film mostly walks a carefully non-judgmental line, and Webber even confesses that he formed a bond with Brumfield, who comes off as well-meaning but clueless.

"These aren't evil people," Webber says. "They are people who love animals, arguably more than most people out there. They have a strong connection to their exotics, even stronger than some people have for their dogs or cats."

The story of Harrison's gentle attempts to persuade Brumfield to give up the lions is interwoven with harrowing tales of animals turning on their owners, hidden-camera footage of the people behind the exotic market and interviews with people on both sides of the debate.

But despite the sympathy he developed for Brumfield, Webber says he came down on the side of those who want to limit and regulate, if not ban, the ownership of most wildlife in the United States.

"I just experienced all the negative sides of this, for the animals and the owners," he says.

Pat Craig, a Boulder native who is founder and director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary near Keenesburg on the eastern plains of Colorado, appears in the film. He advised Webber and Harrison, and eventually took in some of the animals shown.

"For me the movie represents a great educational tool. Joe Public will see it and say, 'Wow, that is a huge problem.' I'm a real fan of the movie in that sense," Craig says.

But he is uncompromising in his refusal to "coddle" people who take in animals that they will deprive of a natural habitat and life, and for which almost all are unequipped to care for. He even criticizes Webber and Harrison for succumbing on camera to the lure of some lion cubs.

"All these people love their animals," Craig says. "But they either provide for them or don't provide. I don't doubt that (Brumfield) loved his lions. ... But we learned a long time ago that being sympathetic, having any hesitation initially (with owners) will end up costing the animals."

Craig points out that virtually all large exotic wildlife goes without any veterinary care simply because most vets won't -- or can't -- handle them. Most people have no exotic animal husbandry skills and almost none can provide a suitable habitat for say, a tiger, a bear, or even a large snake.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary permanently cares for almost 300 animals that have been abandoned by their previous owners, including about 70 tigers, 86 bears, 34 wolves and 40 African lions. The animals live on 320 acres and cost about $3 million a year to care for, Craig says. Animals are prevented from breeding through birth control. (The public may visit the sanctuary for a fee; for more information, go to

Terry Brumfield, an Ohio man who kept adult lions at his home, in "The Elephant in the Living Room." Courtesy photo. animals," Craig says. "But they either provide for them or don't provide. I don't doubt that (Brumfield) loved his lions. ... But we learned a long time ago that being sympathetic, having any hesitation initially (with owners) will end up costing the animals."

Craig points out that virtually all large exotic wildlife goes without any veterinary care simply because most vets won't -- or can't -- handle them. Most people have no exotic animal husbandry skills and almost none can provide a suitable habitat for say, a tiger, a bear, or even a large snake.

Since animals are considered property in most states and seizing them often results in lawsuits, Craig advocates laws requiring that owners pay for liability insurance.

"We should require a million dollars worth of insurance," he says. "It's amazing how so many owners who say they would never give up (an animal) find out they have to pay insurance premiums and suddenly say (screw) it."

Large carnivores get most of the film's attention, but it notes that Americans own everything from chimpanzees to poisonous snakes such as the deadly gabon viper. The non-profit, all-volunteer Colorado Reptile Humane Society in Longmont, which handles everything from small lizards to venomous snakes such as western diamondback rattlers, constantly battles the problem of people taking in animals they can't care for.

"Calling them exotics is funny to begin with," says associate director Jonathan Sculpin. "The only extraordinary thing is that we humans have taken them out of their natural setting. ... People put a 5-foot long snake an aquarium. But in the wild that animal has at least an acre of habitat over which it roams."

And as the film makes clear with breathless local TV stories, when wild animals behave like, well, wild animals, they tend to take the blame.

"In North America, we think the role of a tiger or a lion or a chimpanzee is to put clothes on them, to dress up a chimp in an Old Navy commercial with a spoon. But eventually, if (the chimp) tears your face, your genitalia, your hands and feet off, we say it went bad. But that is what a chimp is meant to do," Webber says, recalling a horrific 2009 incident in which a "pet" chimpanzee attacked a woman in Connecticut. News reports said neighbors were "shocked" by the animal's behavior.

An emergency room physician in the film, Dr. Roger Paholka of Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, shakes his head at the many cases he's seen of exotic pets harming people.

"We see them as safe and cuddly, as opposed to people in Africa, who see them as something that wants to eat your face," Paholka says onscreen.

But both Webber and Craig regret that public debate over the issue -- to the extent that there is any -- tends to be focused on public safety to the exclusion of the animals' welfare. The film ends with brief footage of animals rescued and released into the grasslands at the Wild Animal Sanctuary, a stark contrast to their earlier extreme confinement.
"These are non-domesticated, majestic animals," Webber says. "After the initial fascination, you become sad. Gosh, that tiger is never going to run, never hunt, and hopefully never breed. It is never going to be able to do things it was programmed and designed to do."
Story and photo Credit Here

Studies show Monkeys can count better than originally thought

Researchers, led by Vanessa Schmidt from the German Primate Center in Goettingen, Germany, conducted basic numeracy tests on long-tailed macaques in an effort to show that these primates understand the concept of relative quantity.
In the first experiment, researchers presented the monkeys with two plates of raisins with one having more than the other. The idea being that the monkeys would choose the plate with the larger number of raisins. In this first experiment, the monkeys were then allowed to eat the raisins on the plate they choose. In this experiment, researchers found that the monkeys had a tendency to get this wrong and chose the plate with the smaller amount of raisins.

In the second experiment, the researchers decided to replace the raisins with non-edible objects, in this case pebbles. When presented these plates with pebbles, the monkeys did much better.

The third experiment returned to the plates with raisins, but instead of being rewarded with the raisins on the plate, the monkeys were rewarded with raisins hidden underneath. This experiment showed the same results as the pebbles.

Researchers point out that these natural impulses in the monkeys and their desire to eat the raisins interfered with their judgment in the initial experiment. Similar to young children and the reverse reward paradigm, these monkeys were not able to see past their desire to eat the raisins.

In the reverse reward paradigm, young children are presented with two piles of candies of different sizes. The children will always point to the larger pile and then this pile is given to another child. Children have difficulty understanding that by choosing the smaller pile, they will receive the larger pile. However, if this test is repeated with non-edible objects, the children are able to understand and perform the experiment correctly.

Researchers in this study point to the same interference in judgment by the monkeys when presented with food. Their desire to eat the food gets in the way of the task at hand. These researchers believe that previous studies performed on other primates using food as a test symbol may have impaired results and therefore underestimated the primate’s numeracy abilities.

Information and video here

Man caught for trying to smuggle a baby chimpanzee

Although great that they caught this guy before the baby chimp could be sold, the saddest part of this is that the mother was probably killed to get this baby and now this baby has no mom and mom doesn't have a life. All for the sake of money!!!!!! So sad... Just the thought that being rich over the compassion for the Primates makes me sick!!!! Hope he rots in jail forever because no doubt he took someone elses life.

Conservationists are calling for worldwide action to stop the growing trade in endangered primates being smuggled out of Africa by criminal gangs alongside drugs and arms, writes Asha Tanna.

The Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) - a non-profit organisation that supports sanctuaries across the continent - says the situation is "critical" to all endangered species, because dollar for dollar it's more profitable than some drug trafficking.

"It's nothing small, these gangs are well organised and they're fast," said PASA's executive director, Doug Cress.

"From start to finish a deal can be done and the order delivered in less than a week. If they've already got away with loading drugs and automatic weapons onto an airplane, then to throw in leopard skins and crates stuffed with live baby chimpanzees - it's worth their while."

The man pictured here was investigated by the Last Great Ape Organisation (LAGA) - a wildlife law enforcement group - and jailed for three years for trying to smuggle a baby chimpanzee as well as four sacks of drugs containing 50kg of marijuana and cocaine in the back of his car out of Cameroon, en route to Nigeria.

According to conservationists, a baby gorilla can fetch up to £40,000 on the black-market.

Law enforcement agencies say they have identified certain trade routes through Africa which are being exploited because cross-border patrols are lax and the punishment for wildlife crime is lenient.

"Mobile phones and the internet have made it easy for people to communicate and they can create quite a grab bag of things," said Doug Cress.

"Prosecutions in parts of Africa...are difficult to uphold and some of these known traffickers are untouchable because they can bribe their way out of a situation."

"Prosecutions in parts of Africa...are difficult to uphold and some of these known traffickers are untouchable because they can bribe their way out of a situation."

Doug Cress PASA

PASA says endangered primates are usually pre-ordered from places like the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe where they end up either as exotic pets or put on show in zoos. The animals are increasingly being smuggled through Alexandria or Sharm El Sheik in Egypt - either from Cameroon via Nigeria or from Kenya via Sudan.

All endangered animals being trafficked are supposed to be protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Some crates seized by investigators have also revealed an increase in animal skins, ivory, rhino horns and various body parts for trophies.

Earlier this year, five people were arrested in Gabon, West Africa, following the largest confiscation of great ape body parts in the last ten years. The parts found included the head and hands of a gorilla, along with 12 chimpanzee heads and 30 chimpanzee hands.

Local African police, Interpol, LAGA and the World Customs Organization (WCO) have been working in conjunction with PASA to intercept wildlife smugglers to try to prosecute them.

Ofir Drori, director of LAGA said: "The problem conservation faces is corruption and it can be found in government officials, magistrates and police. That is the number one obstacle and we need to fight it.

"Bribing attempts are documented in 85 per cent of our field arrest operations, and 80 per cent of all court cases within the legal system. The only way to stop criminals, is to put them in jail.

"CITES is a tool that only works when there are collaborative governments. The problem is some governments don't want to follow the rules."

Following the recent political turmoil in Egypt, there's been no response from the authorities there to requests for comments on the smuggling allegations.

Lack of training

A spokesman for the WCO, Grant Bushby, said that many customs administrations in Africa suffered from a lack of awareness, training, equipment and inter-agency cooperation "which impacts negatively on effective enforcement at borders".

"Corruption too has paralysed enforcement efforts," he added.

PASA claims that Africa's ties with some international trading partners mean officials will look the other way at border checks; and say many of the illegal exchanges at African airports are done on the tarmac.

If criminals are successfully intercepted, conservationists say the animals are often confiscated and the offenders are allowed to walk away with just a warning. Those who do end up in jail will often receive a more lenient sentence for wildlife trafficking than for drugs or arms offences, so there's a temptation to re-offend.

PASA believes all chimpanzees and gorillas being smuggled out of Africa have been captured in the wild. It has written to CITES to investigate.

The head of enforcement for CITES, John Sellar said: "We are not sitting back and twiddling our thumbs. CITES has one officer to look at wildlife enforcement globally. Historically we have known that Egypt has traded in live primates and we have since worked very closely with the authorities to address this problem.

"The trade in great apes is very serious because of the detrimental impact to their populations; this is very much on our radar. If we find that a country is not complying we will issue sanctions to cease trading with them. Financially it has little significance, it's more international embarrassment. CITES is not a law enforcement agency, any hard evidence we receive is passed onto the authorities to investigate."

LAGA says it is starting to see some positive results, but preventing primate trafficking continues to be an on-going battle.

Asha Tanna is a British freelance journalist. She writes a conservation blog which focuses on all primate-related news and features.
Story and photo Credit Here

Little Rock Zoo wants patrons to support the new Primate Bill

This is where I placed my 2 chimpanzees, Mikey and Louie.

LITTLE ROCK – Officials at the Little Rock Zoo are urging patrons to support proposed legislation that would ban private ownership of primates.

The zoo says it supports senate bill SB901 because of safety and health concerns. SB901 is scheduled to be considered by the house Public Health Committee on Thursday.

In an email, zoo director Susan Altrui says primates purchased by private citizens as pets often grow up to be adults that are difficult to control. As a result zoos are often asked to take custody of the primates, which they can't always do.

In addition, Altrui says pet primates pose a risk to public health because they can carry diseases such as Ebola and hepatitis B.

On Tuesday a group of monkey owners showed up at the State Capitol to speak out against the legislation.
Story Credit Here

Here is the Bill- (click on each page to enlarge- opens as a PDF) bill found here

How does a person know if a sanctuary is a good one or a bad one?

Hi readers!
I received a question in regards to how does one know if a sanctuary is a good or bad one. This is such an important question that I thought it deserved a separate post. I have so much information on here that sometimes it's easy to overlook the comments.

Usually "good" sanctuaries are not located in a neighborhood around people, they are usually very remote with many acres of land to give the animals plenty of space, sanction and away from people for reasons such as, but not limited to, escapes, intruders.
They are a non-profit 501(c)3 and not an exhibitor. Their sanctuary is held by a board of directors with the non-profit owning the sanctuary. The sanctuary is not privately held. According to the USDA all exhibitors must "exhibit", "exploit" their animals by allowing people to come into the facility. Real sanctuaries do not allow people to be present around the primates. Educating people on Primates does not mean that they have to visit or see them in person. That's what zoos are for.

Before they open a new sanctuary they make sure that the primates are permitted not only on a state level but city and county. They obtain all permits before accepting any primates. They don't believe in private ownership of primates.

They speak to the public about how primates should not be held in a personal way. In no way do they help pet owners of primates with care and feeding because this is NOT something that they believe in. An example of this is if someone were to contact a real sanctuary about the care of their pet primate, the sanctuary would do everything in their power to educate that person and help them find a sanctuary to place them in instead of being some one's pet.

This question is so strong that that is why PETA and other organizations send people in under cover to find out what the sanctuary is really doing and what they are all about. Most of the time when these Animal Welfare people conclude their investigation the results are that it is not a true sanctuary.

Good sanctuaries usually have at least one person that has been trained in the drugs, dosage and weight combination to be able to dart an escaped Primate. This prevents any escapes from leaving the property. It sedates the Primate so that the caretakers can contain the animal back into it's enclosure or habitat.
Volunteers at good sanctauries are usually people with allot of experience or are working on a degree, not teenagers or friends.

With the question of good for the animals...

All Primates need ample space to thrive. They need to live with troupes of monkeys not singly housed or with one other monkey. In the wild which truly is where they belong they live in troupes up to 30 monkeys. When monkeys are not housed in proper space and in troupes some of their natural behaviour does not exist.

In my opinion and with my many years of experieince I would say that there are only a handful of good true sanctauries here in the US.