Ebola killing humans, gorillas, chimpanzees

This video is called Deadly Ebola Virus Wiping out Gorillas in Africa.

From Discovery News:

Ebola Has Crushed Gorilla and Chimp Populations

JAN 22, 2015 03:05 PM ET

Writing at theconversation.com, Meera Inglis, a PhD. in conservation policy at the University of Sheffield, calls attention to a perhaps little known, or not often considered, fact: The Ebola virus has put a sizable dent in Africa’s great ape populations.

In her piece Inglis calls Ebola “the single greatest threat to the survival of gorillas and chimpanzees” and cites mortality rates of about 95% for gorillas and 77% for chimpanzees.

She also notes that by some estimates 33% of gorilla and chimpanzee populations worldwide have died from Ebola since the 1990s.

Ebola’s Deadly Jump From Animal to Animal

“We need both short-term solutions to halting the spread of Ebola and long-term ones to prevent future outbreaks,” Inglis writes. She suggests vaccination programs in the short run, and in the long run a restoration and enlargement of great ape habitats as well as better protection for them from hunters.

With respect to vaccination, Inglis cites trials on chimpanzees of an encouraging new vaccine that trains the immune system to identify and defend against Ebola and does not appear to harm the animals.

Habitat restoration and greater protection from hunters, meanwhile, have their own obstacles. “Unfortunately,” says Inglis, “there appears to be a lack of political will to implement policies which would bring viable solutions into effect.”

“If we do not act fast,” she adds, “these may prove to be the last decades in which apes can continue to live in their natural habitat.”

Wild gorilla using tools, new discovery

This video from Uganda is called Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla (HD Version).

From the BBC:

Wild gorilla creates a food tool in ‘eureka’ moment

For the first time, a wild gorilla is seen using a tool to eat food

It’s a scene that would grace the opening of any Planet of the Apes movie.

But rather than being fiction, this is fact, and one that is new to science.

For the first time, a gorilla in the wild has been seen using a tool to acquire and eat food.

The young female gorilla watched another older male attempt to collect ants from a hole in the ground, only to see the ants bite his arm, scaring him away.

The female gorilla tried to put her own arm in the hole, and she too was bitten.

But instead of giving up, the young ape then had her very own ‘eureka’ moment.

She looked around for a suitable implement, and selected a piece of wood approximately 20 cm long, tapering from 2 cm wide at one end to 1 cm long at the other.

She then inserted the stick into the hole, withdrew it, and licked off ants clambering over it, avoiding being stung.

Other great apes have been seen to use tools in the wild, and captive gorillas have been known to fashion and use a range of tools in their enclosures.

But the incident is surprising because wild gorillas were, until now, rarely known to have created and used tools.

The only known examples are when a western lowland gorilla was documented using a stick to gauge the depth of water before crossing a waterway. Another was been seen using bamboo as a ladder for her young infant to climb up.

But until now wild gorillas have never been seen using implements to eat with.

Lisanga, a very clever ape

The use of the stick was witnessed by Dr Jean-Felix Kinani, the head veterinarian with Gorilla Doctors, an organisation of vets that works with wildlife authorities to monitor the health of wild gorillas.

He and colleagues were observing one of eight mountain gorilla groups habituated to humans in the Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda.

Within the group live 23 gorillas, including three silverback males, a younger male, and seven adult females, as well as juvenile gorillas and infants.

The veterinarians saw a gorilla named Kigoma, the second ranking silverback in the group, insert his left hand in to a hole in the ground, attempting to catch driver ants to eat.

He quickly withdrew it, and ran from the hole, shaking his arm, presumably remove the biting ants, report Dr Felix and colleague Dr Dawn Zimmerman, who are both affiliated to the University of California, US.

All the time, a younger female, Lisanga, watched his actions, they report in the American Journal of Primatology.

She approached the hole and for approximately two minutes watched the ants enter and leave it.

She then put her own hand in the whole, suffering Kigoma’s fate.

Undeterred however, she found her tool, a broken branch lying some 2 m from the hole, and preceded to use it to dine on the ants.

Chimpanzees are well known to use tools in the wild, with different groups using different implements; some use sticks to dig out termites or to fish or dip for ants. They have even been seen using spears to hunt monkeys.

Wild orang-utans in Asia have spontaneously created hammers, probes and scrapers made of sticks.

And in captivity, gorillas have been seen using sticks as weapons, using coconut fibres as sponges, and logs as ladders.

Which begs the question, why don’t they in the wild?

One answer is that they do, but it goes unnoticed.

Another is that gorillas are observed more in captivity, making it more likely that scientists spot novel behaviours.

But it could also be that captive gorillas have less to do than their wild counterparts, so are more inclined to experiment to fill the time, Mike Cranfield, Director of Gorilla Doctors told BBC Earth.

Captive gorillas often have new objects placed in their enclosures to enrich their environments, providing more opportunity for them to be turned into tools.

“Lisanga is a curious gorilla,” explained Dr Kinani. “She is known to have an investigative personality.”

For example, one anecdotal report details her showing more than casual interest in a researcher’s bag, quietly approaching behind the researcher and attempting to take the bag away.

“This looks to be an idiosyncratic behaviour,” he adds, referring to her use of the stick to catch and eat ants.

No other gorillas witnessed Lisanga’s actions, so it is unlikely that they too will learn the same trick, developing a culture of stick use.

This time, at least.

Saving gorillas in 2014, video

This video says about itself:

Year-End Thank You 2014

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

17 December 2014

47 years later, we are still committed to saving gorillas. Featuring Fossey Fund staff from Atlanta, Musanze and Nkuba-Biruwe, we thank our supporters for making our work possible!

Wild chimpanzees plan their breakfast

This video says about itself:

Backstage in the Wild: Yale Insights into Chimpanzee

20 April 2012

In the Ugandan national park Ngogo, Yale anthropologist David Watts and colleagues at the University of Michigan study the behavior of chimpanzees. Watts, who served as a consultant for newly released Disney nature Chimpanzee, describes his experiences with our with our primate cousins – and the urgent need to protect them in the wild.

From Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Wild chimpanzees plan their breakfast time, type, and location


How do large-brained primates maintain high rates of energy intake when times are lean? By analyzing early-morning departure times and sleeping nest positioning of female chimpanzees as a function of the ephemerality of next day’s breakfast fruit and its location, we found evidence that wild chimpanzees flexibly plan when and where they will have breakfast after weighing multiple factors, such as the time of day, their egocentric distance to, and the type of food to be eaten. To our knowledge, our findings reveal the first clear example of a future-oriented cognitive mechanism by which hominoids, like great apes, can buffer the effect of seasonal declines in food availability and increased interspecific competition to facilitate first access to nutritious food.


Not all tropical fruits are equally desired by rainforest foragers and some fruit trees get depleted more quickly and carry fruit for shorter periods than others. We investigated whether a ripe-fruit specialist, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), arrived earlier at breakfast sites with very ephemeral and highly sought-after fruit, like figs, than sites with less ephemeral fruit that can be more predictably obtained throughout the entire day.

We recorded when and where five adult female chimpanzees spent the night and acquired food for a total of 275 full days during three fruit-scarce periods in a West African tropical rainforest. We found that chimpanzees left their sleeping nests earlier (often before sunrise when the forest is still dark) when breakfasting on very ephemeral fruits, especially when they were farther away. Moreover, the females positioned their sleeping nests more in the direction of the next day’s breakfast sites with ephemeral fruit compared with breakfast sites with other fruit.

By analyzing departure times and nest positioning as a function of fruit type and location, while controlling for more parsimonious explanations, such as temperature, we found evidence that wild chimpanzees flexibly plan their breakfast time, type, and location after weighing multiple disparate pieces of information. Our study reveals a cognitive mechanism by which large-brained primates can buffer the effects of seasonal declines in food availability and increased interspecific competition to facilitate first access to nutritious food. We discuss the implications for theories on hominoid brain-size evolution.

The research was in Ivory Coast.

Chimpanzees adapting to humans, new study

This BBC video is called How to Speak Chimpanzee.

From Wildlife Extra:

Chimps found to be adapting to human neighbours

Wild chimpanzees could be learning to coexist with their human neighbours a new study suggests. Expanding land use for agriculture and other activities are increasingly encroaching on wild chimpanzee habitat and there are signs the chimps are adjusting to these habitat changes.

Researchers from Muséum national d’histoire naturelle have used camera-traps to observe chimpanzee behaviour during incursions out of the forest into maize fields in Kibale National Park, Uganda. During the 20 days of the study, a total of 14 crop-raiding events were recorded by the activation of the video-trap.

The researchers observed large parties of eight chimpanzees which also included vulnerable individuals such as females with clinging infants. This is the first record of frequent and repeated activities at night, in the darkness. Habitat destruction may have prompted the chimpanzees to adjust their normal behaviour to include innovative behaviours exploiting open croplands at night.

The study concluded: ”Even though the chimpanzees’ home range has been seriously damaged and disturbed by both logging activities and significant human demographic pressure, chimpanzees have shown great behavioural flexibility including unexpected nocturnal behaviour, in order to take advantage of the proximity of domestic nutritive food.

“The new findings of chimpanzee nocturnal raids can aid to formulate recommendations to local farmers and Park authorities in addition to those already listed as “best practice guidelines” from IUCN in terms of human-wildlife conflicts.”

Released gibbons have baby in Cambodia

This video says about itself:

Released Gibbons Have Baby

21 October 2014

We are very excited to announce that our released gibbons, Baray and Saranik, gave birth to their first baby earlier this month! At the end of last year, a pair of endangered pileated gibbons that were raised at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC), were successfully rehabilitated and reintroduced into the protected forest of Angkor Archaeological Park. Since their release, the gibbons have been closely monitored, and it has been quite remarkable how quickly they have adapted to their new life in the forest. They remain a closely bonded pair, are completely self-reliant and now the latest addition to their family is another sign that they have settled into their new home!

The reintroduction of gibbons and the birth of this baby gibbon in particular is an exciting and vital step towards the conservation of this endangered species! Learn more here.

Chimpanzees’ special tools for hunting ants

This video is called Chimpanzees’ sophisticated use of tools – BBC wildlife.

From Wildlife Extra:

Chimpanzees found to have favoured tools for hunting ants

In order to successfully hunt aggressive army ants West African chimpanzees will search far and wide to find the perfect tools.

The Alchornea hirtella plant is what they are looking for as this provides the two tools required for the job; a thicker shoot for ‘digging’ and a more slender tool for ‘dipping’. If Alchornea hirtella is nowhere to be found, chimps will fashion tools from other plants — but seemingly only after an exhaustive search for their preferred tool provider.

Once the chimps have located an army ant colony, they will dig into the nest with the first tool to aggravate the insects. They then dip the second tool into the nest, causing the angry ants to swarm up it. Once the slender shoot is covered in ants, the chimpanzees pull scoop up a substantial handful from the shoot to eat.

A diet of army ants was believed to be a last resort for hungry chimps, only exploited when the animal’s preferred food of fruit couldn’t be found. But the latest study, based on over ten years of data, shows that, in fact, army ants are a staple in the chimpanzee diet — eaten all year round regardless of available sources of fruit.

“Ant dipping is a remarkable feat of problem-solving on the part of chimpanzees,” said lead author Dr Kathelijne Koops from the University of Cambridge.

“If they tried to gather ants from the ground with their hands, they would end up horribly bitten with very little to show for it. But by using a tool set, preying on these social insects may prove as nutritionally lucrative as hunting a small mammal – a solid chunk of protein.

“Scientists have been working on ruling out simple environmental and genetic explanations for group differences in behaviours, such as tool use, and the evidence is pointing strongly towards it being cultural,” said Koops. “They probably learn tool use behaviours from their mother and others in the group when they are young.

“By studying our closest living relatives we gain a window into the evolutionary past which allows us to shed light on the origins of human technology and material culture.”