Rwanda’s mountain gorillas, new film


Wildlife Extra writes about this video:

Rwanda’s mountain gorillas star in new documentary – watch it here

April 2014: Mountain gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park are the subject of a new 15 minute documentary entitled Hope which you can watch [above here]. The short film revisits the mountain gorillas at the park, nearly 47 years after Dian Fossey began her work in the region, and explores the extreme, intensive and sometimes dangerous methods employed to protect the great apes.

The film, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, takes a historical look back to 1967 when Dian Fossey began her work. Fewer than 300 mountain gorillas remained at the time, their population ravaged by poachers, who for years targeted the gorillas to make money, selling infant gorillas to zoos or the hands and heads of the adults as trophies to wealthy tourists.

Dian Fossey was murdered in 1985, her original research centre destroyed, rebuilt and then destroyed again during the civil war in Rwanda in the 1990s. However, despite adversity, the work never stopped. Today the Karisoke Research Center has a new home where 120 people continue Dian’s work, as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

The charity employs teams of trackers who follow the gorillas every day. They monitor each gorilla, ensuring its safety and health, risking their lives in a region that is still plagued by violence.

“The number of mountain gorillas had become so depleted in Rwanda by the late 1960s that extreme measures were needed to protect the remaining population and allow it to increase,” said David Attenborough. “The work at the Volcanoes National Park by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International absolutely must continue, if we are to protect this species of great ape, which is still critically endangered. The film Hope will once again bring to light the fragile existence of the mountain gorillas and the work that goes into protecting them. By watching and sharing this very important film you will be helping the people saving the gorillas.”

Ugandan mountain gorilla photos:here.

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Prehistoric apes discovery in Kenya


This video says about itself:

1 Oct 2012

On Rusinga Island in Kenya‘s Lake Victoria, paleontologist Will Harcourt-Smith is leading an effort to recreate the environments inhabited by primitive primates—apes of the genus Proconsul. Studying the adaptive changes of our ancient ancestors helps scientists trace the origins of adaptability in modern humans.

Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History.

From Science, Space & Robots:

Fossil Forest Discovery Sheds Light on Environment Inhabited by Early Apes

A fossil forest discovery by researchers from Baylor University and an international team of scientists has shed light on the environment inhabited by early apes on Rusinga Island, Kenya. Researchers found fossils of tree stumps, calcified roots and fossil leaves. Researchers say the fossil find indicates that Proconsul and its primate relative, Dendropithecus, lived in a dense, closed canopy tropical seasonal forest about 18 to 20 million years ago. The research was published here in Nature Communications.

Daniel Peppe, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the study, says in a Baylor release, “Our research findings provide direct evidence and confirm where the early ape lived about 18 to 20 million years ago. We now know that Proconsul lived in a closed-canopy, tropical seasonal forest set in a warm and relatively wet local climate.”

Fossils of a single Proconsul were also found among the geological fossil forest deposits.

Lauren Michel, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the geology department at Baylor, says, “The varying diameters of the tree stumps coupled with their density within the fossil soil, implies that the forest would have been comprised of trees with interlocking or overlapping branches, thus creating a canopy.”

Posted on February 27, 2014

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Chimpansee almost died, now freed


This video from Congo says about itself:

Wounda’s Journey: Jane Goodall releases chimpanzee into forest

17 Dec 2013

This video documents the story of Wounda, one of the more than 160 chimpanzees living at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo.

Thanks to the expert care provided at Tchimpounga, Wounda overcame significant adversity and illness and was recently relocated to Tchindzoulou Island, one of three islands that are part of the newly expanded sanctuary. Dr. Jane Goodall was on hand to witness Wounda’s emotional release, and now you can too.

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Myanmar hoolock gibbons, new research


This video is called Conservation of the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon.

By Frank Momberg today:

Myanmar critical for hoolock gibbon conservation

December 18, 2013

A comprehensive conservation status review of hoolock gibbons in Myanmar has been published by Fauna & Fauna International (FFI), People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) and Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA).

The review, issued through the Gibbon Conservation Alliance, involved three years of nationwide field surveys and threat assessments. Prior to this research, action was constrained by a lack of data on their distribution, population size and threats.

The results of the new research show serious threats and concludes that Myanmar is critical for the survival of both the Eastern and the Western hoolock gibbon. While Western hoolock gibbon populations in India and Bangladesh are severely fragmented, and even more so the Eastern hoolock populations in China. With 99.9% of Eastern and at least 90% of the Western hoolock total population, Myanmar offers the best chance of survival for both species.

To protect at least one important site for the conservation of each species, FFI, PRCF and BANCA have initiated a community based Western Hoolock Gibbon Project in Pauk Sa Mountain, Rhakine Yoma Range and a collaborative conservation project at Indawgyi Wildlife Sanctuary, in partnership with the Myanmar Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry. At both sides we have been able to reduce habitat fragmentation and hunting through active engagement of local communities in the protection of gibbons and by providing support for alternative livelihoods.

Good African gorilla news


This is a western lowland gorilla video from the Central African Republic.

From Wildlife Extra:

Gorillas reintroduced into Congo & Gabon are thriving

October 2013. The Aspinall Foundation’s reintroduction of western lowland gorillas to areas of Africa where they have been hunted to extinction appears to be working, according to a new scientific study.

Critically Endangered

Western lowland gorillas are classified by the World Conservation Union as Critically Endangered, based on a projected 80% decline in the wild over just three generations, ranking them alongside the most threatened species on the planet. Reintroduction of gorillas to protected areas from where they have previously been exterminated is still considered controversial, but a pioneering, long-term programme to do just that is starting to show it may be possible after all.

Congo & Gabon

Two gorilla populations are currently in the process of being re-established in the neighbouring African republics of Congo and Gabon, by the UK-based charity The Aspinall Foundation in collaboration with the respective governments.

Fifty-one gorillas were released between 1996 and 2006, 25 in the Lesio-Louna Reserve in Congo, and 26 in the Batéké Plateau National Park in Gabon. Most of the released gorillas are rehabilitated orphans of the illegal bush-meat trade, taken as young babies from their slaughtered mothers by opportunistic hunters. The majority of orphaned gorillas die of depression and mistreatment, but a few survive long-enough to be confiscated and handed over to long-term rehabilitation programmes.

In the Gabon project, in addition to the wild-born orphans the released gorillas also include seven captive-borns, sent back to Africa from The Aspinall Foundation’s successful captive-breeding population at Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks in the UK.

Good levels of survival, births and dispersal

Dedicated field staff have been monitoring the released gorillas for over ten years at both reintroduction sites. A previous analysis, published in 2012 in the International Journal of Primatology, illustrated that the reintroduction programme had been successful in terms of post-release survival, birth rates and dispersal, all of which were comparable with wild populations. The new study goes a step further, using this information to develop a computer simulation model of the growth of the two reintroduced gorilla populations over a 200-year period.

Lead author of the new study, The Aspinall Foundation’s Conservation and Reintroduction Co-ordinator Tony King, explained, “We have seen with our own eyes the remarkable ways in which the released gorillas adapt to their new homes, and have celebrated numerous successful births to orphaned gorillas who never had the chance of a normal upbringing in a gorilla family – but this is the first time that we have put all this together to help predict the future success of the reintroductions.”

3 more gorillas released

The results of the study suggest that the reintroduced gorilla populations have a good chance of sustaining themselves for 200 years and more, but illustrated that reinforcement of the populations by further releases could significantly improve probabilities of population persistence and retention of genetic diversity. Damian Aspinall, chairman of The Aspinall Foundation, said, “This is incredibly useful information. Only last week three more gorillas were released in Gabon, and we are currently preparing an entire family group for imminent release.”

Slow reproduction

Developing the model was a challenge. “Gorillas can live for over forty years, usually don’t reproduce until they are at least 10 years old, and females produce one surviving off-spring only every five years or so,” added co-author Christelle Chamberlan, who has worked with both reintroduced lowland gorilla populations and the wild mountain gorillas of Rwanda. “Even after a decade of monitoring our released gorillas, there are still many aspects of their life-history patterns that we don’t know. We tested our model to see which factors were most significant in changing the predicted success of the reintroduction. Relatively small changes to annual birth rates or to female survival rates made big changes to the predicted long-term growth of the populations. Good numbers of healthy, reproducing female gorillas are therefore critical to population persistence.”

“It is definitely an ambitious project,” King concluded. “Results so far have exceeded most expectations. The gorillas are still living on a knife-edge though. Small reintroduced populations are always susceptible to crashes due to random changes in any number of factors. We plan to release more gorillas at both sites, which will increase the chances that the populations will survive. In reality we are still only just beginning.”

The study was published in the international conservation journal Oryx.

Chimpanzees painting


From LiveScience in the USA:

Chimp-Painted Art is Expressive, Even When Painted by Tongue (Op-Ed)

Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO, Humane Society of the United States

September 04, 2013 07:52pm ET

Expertvoices_02_ls_v2[2]

chimpanzees art, human society of the united states, medical research ethics
Brent is a chimpanzee who lives at Chimp Haven in Keithville, La. Brent is 37 years old and has lived at Chimp Haven since 2006. He is protective of Grandma, Chimp Haven’s oldest resident. He loves to laugh and play. Brent paints only with his tongue. His unique approach and style, while a little unorthodox, results in beautiful pieces of art.
Credit: Chimp Haven.View full size image

Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This Op-Ed is adapted from a post on the blog A Humane Nation, where the content ran before appearing in LiveScience’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

We do a lot of serious business at The HSUS, taking all kinds of cruelty head-on. But we also celebrate animals, taking stock of the diversity of life and the incredible attributes of the other creatures on the planet.

HSUS supporters may have received an e-mail from me a few weeks ago announcing an art contest — in this particular contest, the artists are very strong, very hairy and very smart.

They are, in fact, chimps — and let’s just say they haven’t been classically trained.

We enlisted six member organizations of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, and asked if a chimp at each facility would create and submit a piece of art. Modern, impressionist, abstract expressionist, still life with banana. It was their prerogative.

In the end, six sanctuaries submitted pieces, and 27,000 people cast votes to choose a winner. Jane Goodall, famed primatologist and U.N. Messenger of Peace, also chose her favorite.

Last week, we announced the winners.

chimpanzees art, human society of the united states, medical research ethics

Brent, a 37-year-old chimpanzee from Chimp Haven, won 1st place in a recent chimp-art competition with his unorthodox painting technique of only using his tongue.
Credit: Chimp Haven.

View full size image

Brent’s masterpiece — painted with, of all things, his tongue — won the public vote and his sanctuary, Chimp Haven of Louisiana, won a grant of $10,000 from The HSUS.

Credit: Save the Chimps. Cheetah, of Save the Chimps in Florida, whose seriousness and concentration while painting are unmistakable, placed second in the online voting and also won the coveted selection by Goodall, winning a total of $10,000. Ripley of the Center for Great Apes in Florida won third prize, for a $2,500 grant. The paintings by Jamie of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, Jenny of Primate Rescue Center, and Patti of Chimps, Inc., convey the unique style of each chimpanzee.
View full size image

chimpanzees art, human society of the united states, medical research ethics

Cheetah is a chimpanzee who lives at Save the Chimps in Ft. Pierce, Fla. The Artist formerly known as Cheetah: Cheetah, estimated to be born in the 1970′s, lived alone in a laboratory for 13 years and endured over 400 over biopsies. He was rescued by Save the Chimps in 2002 and has since discovered his passion for painting.

View full size image

Many people are clamoring and demanding to know how they can get their own chimpanzee art — and let me assure you, your cries will be heard, as we’re planning an online auction of the paintings this fall to benefit NAPSA, of which our own Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, operated by our affiliate The Fund for Animals, is a member.

We are glad that the chimpanzees at these sanctuaries have the time and security to pursue their creative genius. That was not always the case for them. Brent, Cheetah, Jenny and Jamie were all used in biomedical research. Cheetah lived in isolation for years and was subjected to over 400 liver biopsies. Ripley and Patti were used in entertainment — performing on camera or before crowds.

They are all serving as ambassadors for those chimpanzees who still languish in laboratories and are used in the entertainment industry today.

The HSUS has worked hard to get all chimpanzees out of laboratories and into safe places, and a recent decision by the National Institutes of Health to retire more than 300 chimpanzees along with a proposal by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list all chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act will mean a sharp decline in these exploitive activities. [America's Fleeting Chance to Correct Chimps' Endangered Status (Op-Ed)]

chimpanzees art, human society of the united states, medical research ethics

Cheetah, who lived alone in a lab for 13 years and endured more than 400 biopsies before being rescued by Save the Chimps, won 2nd place in a recent chimp-art competition — he was Dr. Jane Goodall’s selection during judging.
Credit: Save the Chimps.

View full size image

We at The HSUS have always said that making sure chimpanzees are safe in sanctuary is just as important as ending their use in exploitative activities. We are grateful to sanctuaries that work so hard to provide enriching lives for these animals. We will be sure to stop and celebrate the retirement of each and every one. See the rest of the masterpieces here.

Pacelle’s most recent Op-Ed was “Sharks Gain Protections in India, Will U.S. Follow Suit?”. This article was adapted from “From Monet and Picasso to Brent and Cheetah” which first appeared on the HSUS blog A Humane Nation. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on LiveScience.

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 90 – The Common Chimpanzee: here.

Extinct ape didn’t walk upright


This video says about itself:

The Ape That Took Over the World (Documentary)

14 Jan 2013

In 2001, scientists announced an amazing discovery: the oldest skull of a human ancestor ever found. The 3½ million year old fossil was remarkably complete, and unlike any previous fossil find. Its discovery – by a team led by Meave Leakey of the famous Leakey fossil-hunting family – has revolutionised our understanding of how humans evolved.

The great mystery of our evolution is how an ape could have evolved into the extraordinary creature that is a human being. There has never been another animal like us on the planet. And yet ten million years ago there was no sign that humans would take over the world. Instead the Earth was dominated by the apes. More than 50 different species of ape roamed the world – ten million years ago Earth really was the planet of the apes. Three million years later, most had vanished. In their place came something clearly related to the apes, but also completely different: human beings!

From the India Times:

Ancient Apes Didn’t Walk Upright

July 27, 2013, 3:46 pm IST

WASHINGTON: The ancient ape did not walk on two legs like humans do, as was previously believed, a new study has found, contradicting long-held assumptions.

The new study, led by University of Texas at Austin, found a 9- to 7-million-year-old ape from Italy did not, in fact, walk habitually on two legs. The findings refute a long body of evidence, suggesting that Oreopithecus had the capabilities for bipedal (moving on two legs) walking.

The study, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, confirms that anatomical features related to habitual upright, twolegged walking remain exclusively associated with humans and their fossil ancestors. “Our findings offer new insight into the Oreopithecus locomotor debate,” said anthropologists Gabrielle A Russo.

“While it’s certainly possible that Oreopithecus walked on two legs to some extent, as apes are known to employ short bouts of this activity, an increasing amount of anatomical evidence clearly demonstrates that it didn’t do so habitually,” said Russo.

The researchers analysed the fossil ape to see whether it possessed lower spine anatomy consistent with bipedal walking.

According to the findings, the anatomy of Oreopithecus lumbar vertebrae and sacrum is unlike that of humans, and more similar to apes, indicating that it is incompatible with the functional demands of walking upright as a human does.

Human evolution, from vegetarians to omnivores


This video is called CARTA: Bipedalism and Human Origins-Comparative Anatomy from Australopithecus to Gorillas.

From the BBC:

4 June 2013 Last updated at 07:03 GMT

Human ancestors‘ diet changed 3.5 million years ago

By Melissa Hogenboom, Science reporter, BBC News

A new analysis of early human teeth from extinct fossils has found that they expanded their diets about 3.5 million years ago to include grasses and possibly animals.

Before this, humanlike creatures – or hominins – ate a forest-based diett similar to modern gorillas and chimps.

Researchers analysed fossilised tooth enamel of 11 species of hominins and other primates found in East Africa.

The findings appear in four papers published in PNAS journal.

Like chimpanzees today, many of our early human ancestors lived in forests and ate a diet of leaves and fruits from trees, shrubs and herbs.

But scientists have now found that this changed 3.5 million years ago in the species Australopithecus afarensis and Kenyanthropus platyops.

Their diet included grasses, sedges, and possibly animals that ate such plants. They also tended to live in the open savannahs of Africa.

The new studies show that they not only lived there, but began to consume progressively more foods from the savannahs.

Researchers looked at samples from 175 hominins of 11 species, ranging from 1.4 to 4.1 million years old.

Their diet was analysed from the chemical make up of their teeth, identifying the carbon isotopes within them.

The ratios of different types of carbon atoms, or isotopes, in fossils can give clues to what a fossil creature ate because different foods have different carbon isotope signatures.

“What we have is chemical information on what our ancestors ate, which in simpler terms is like a piece of food item stuck between their teeth and preserved for millions of years,” said Dr Zeresenay Alemseged, from the California Academy of Sciences, co-author on two of the papers.

“Because feeding is the most important factor determining an organism’s physiology, behaviour and its interaction with the environment, these finds will give us new insight into the evolutionary mechanisms that shaped our evolution.”

It is not yet clear whether the change in diet included animals, but “the possible diets of some of our hominin kin” has been considerably narrowed down, Dr Matt Sponheimer, lead author of another of the papers, told BBC News.

A new habitat

“We now have good evidence that some early hominins began using plant foods that are not used in abundance by living African apes today, and this probably led to a major change in the way they used the landscape.

“One consequence could be that the dietary expansion led to a habitat expansion, as they could travel to more open habitats more efficiently.

“We know that many early hominins lived in areas that would not have readily supported chimpanzees with their strong preference for forest fruits. It could also be argued that this dietary expansion was a key element in hominin diversification.”

The study has also answered, at least in part, what researchers have long been speculating – how so many large species of primate managed to co-exist.

“They were not competing for the same foods,” said Prof Thure Cerling from the University of Utah, who led one of the research papers.

‘The modern human’

“All these species who were once in the human lineage, ventured out into this new world of foods 3.5 million years ago, but we don’t yet understand why that is.”

As well as looking at non-human primates, the researchers analysed fossils from other animals from the same era and did not find any evidence of a change in diet.

This combined research highlights a “step towards becoming the modern human”, said Dr Jonathan Wynn from the University of South Florida, who led the analysis of Australopithecus afarensis.

“Exploring new environments and testing new foods, ultimately might be correlated with further changes in human history.”

These four complementary studies give a persuasive account of shifts in dietary niche in East African hominins, Dr Louise Humphrey from the Natural History Museum in London, told BBC news.

Australopithecus

Australopithecus was the ape-man ancestor of humans and walked upright
As many as nine different species may have existed two-four million years ago in Africa
The males were up to twice the size of the females. However, even the largest male was quite short compared to modern humans, at only 150cm tall
The species with hefty jaws and massive faces – known as robust australopithecines – are believed by many scientists to belong in a separate genus, Paranthropus

Source: BBC Nature

Multiple studies of carbon isotopes in fossil hominin teeth from southern and eastern Africa document the change from woodland to grassland diet which marked a major step in the evolution of early humans: here.

A newly discovered skull, some 1.8 million years old, has rekindled debate over the identity of humanity’s ancient ancestors. Uncovered at the Dmanisi site in the Caucasus in Georgia, “Skull 5″ represents the most complete jaw and cranium from a turning point in early human history: here. And here.