Monday, May 14, 2012

The Great Divide: Chimps and Other Monkey Friends

And now for a little explanation on a common misunderstanding people have regarding Great Apes and other monkeys...

Members of the Great Ape family or Hominidae include chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas. These magnificent creatures live life sans tails, have larger brain to body size ratio, higher levels of intelligence, and live longer lives overall. Chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas originate from Africa, while orangutans are from Southeast Asia.


Bonobos                                                              Orangutan

Monkeys or Simians include gibbons and siamangs, both of which originate from Africa. They have various types of tails, have smaller brain to body size ratio, lower levels of intelligence, and live shorter lives than their Great Ape friends. Siamangs are often referred to as the largest of the gibbons within the monkey grouping.


Siamang                                                          Gibbon


Monday, May 7, 2012

Spotlight on Conservation: Jane Goodall

It would probably be some sort of crime against humanity if we didn't mention or discuss one of the world's most well-known figures and researchers in the chimpanzee world...

Jane Goodall is considered one of the prime experts in chimpanzee research and conservation efforts worldwide. She has written several books including one entitled "Hope for Animals and Their World". Goodall is also responsible for the foundation of her own organization for the betterment of chimpanzees everywhere.

The Jane Goodall Institute was founded in 1977 with the mission of improving understanding and treatment of great apes, promoting public education and advocacy, contributing to the preservation of great ape habitats, and to create a network of young people who will "take responsible action to care for them". This noble goal has flourished into the organization it is today- providing care for over 150 chimpanzees living in the Gombe Stream Game Reserve.

Goodall is also responsible for the formation of other environmental awareness programs, including a program called "Roots & Shoots", connects youth of all ages who desire to create a "better world". The program provides service opportunities, youth-led campaigns, and resources online for young people to reach out and make a difference in the world.

This fabulous researcher just celebrated her 78th birthday and is still active, traveling the world for speaking tours, writing more books on great ape conservation, and doing what she enjoys most- visiting Gombe and spending time with her chimps.


Chimps in the Media: Anthropomorphism

Disney recently released a movie entitled "Chimpanzees" for Earth Day 2012. The "rated G" film was produced as a kid-friendly version of Planet Earth with a solely chimpanzee storyline.

Films and other media portrayals of chimpanzees and other animals beg the question to be asked: is what we're watching on the big screen actually what happens out in the real world? Are there implications to having film crews intruding on the natural habitat of these animals? Does the benefit of having a glimpse into the lives of these animals worth the risks involved for the sake of heightened public awareness?

"Chimpanzees" and other films also lead one to wonder- is it acceptable for us to impose human-like story lines on animals that are non-human? When we infuse anthropomorphism (the idea of giving animals human qualities) into media such as this, there are clear benefits and drawbacks.

One pro of anthropomorphism is that humans are often better able to relate to their plight, as many of their behaviors seem to mimic human ones. This allows for people to have a closer connection with the animals and may inspire a bigger push to conservation efforts. Also in this particular instance with chimpanzees, we share a large part of our DNA with these furry creatures, making us very distant relatives but similar nonetheless.

The other side of the coin suggests that the narrow focus in such attempts to connect humans and chimpanzees disallows us to see behaviors that are not common between humans and chimps. In the case of this fun-loving Disney film geared toward children, this might not be such a problem.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chimps on a Plane: Research Issues

A news article by the Huffington Post reported on a story in which an importer of monkeys commonly used for research has been charged with animal cruelty after 15 chimpanzees died while being transported to Los Angeles from China.

The Stop Cruelty Now advocacy group has commented that the trial against this importer will "shed light into the secretive world of laboratory animal imports".

The United States is reported to be one of two countries left in the world that use chimpanzees and other monkeys for research purposes. It is also reported to be the country with the highest use of chimpanzees in laboratory research settings.

Some activists are proposing the Great Ape Protection Act, which if passed, will work to halt the use of these creatures in research in the United States.

Reintroduced on April 18th of this year, the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R.1513/S.810) proposes that the use of these animals in research be halted and that chimps currently in federal laboratory research settings be transported to sanctuaries where they are to be cared for in a more natural setting. This legislation aims to extend to chimpanzees as well as all great apes.


Never Trust a Chimp: Ruthless Predatory Behavior

It might be surprising for the average person to find out that chimpanzees have been known to dine on 35 different types of vertebrate species- including the red columbus monkey. It's hard to picture these highly personable creatures being ruthless hunters and eating other individuals similar to themselves...

Most hunting takes place in groups and is a social activity for the chimps. Some researchers have found a positive correlation between the number of chimps in a given group and the success rate of a hunt. After a hunt, meat sharing behaviors have been found to be common in various groups of chimps. 

Researcher Jane Goodall even found that chimpanzees are prone to go on hunting "binges" in which they kill large numbers of monkeys and other prey. Possible reasons behind such "binges" are unclear. In one group of chimpanzees, they were observed to have killed 10% of the population of colobus monkeys in their area. This number is theoretically less than the number in actuality, as this is simply the calculation of observed kills. 

As far as the whole "eating other monkeys" thing goes, the chimpanzee's choice to feast on their friends over other items available to them may be due to the relative amount of nutrition they receive from different food sources. While fruit, nuts, and insects may be less dangerous to acquire, other monkeys make for better sources of protein.  

Moral of the story is... never trust a chimpanzee by its playful and friendly demeanor!


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bonobo chimps at the San Diego ZOO

From observing these Bonobo's I felt as if the one in the middle was the matriarch of the group. 
After some time the youngest of the group came from sitting behind its mother to sitting in front of its mother.  In the next picture the baby is sucking its thumb.

In this picture, the mother was moving away from the original sitting spot and the baby is following closely. 
In this picture, the baby is leaning over to touch the stream of water while the mother watches closely behind. 

The mother was moving up the hill and the rest of the chimps followed right after 

This plaque located near the Bonobo exhibit discussed the small differences between chimps and Bonobos.  They are part of the same genius PAN.  The small differences are in their facial features. Bonobo's have longer hair on their  heads and it parts in the middle. Also the color of their face is different.
This chimp showed some possible aggression towards the glass.  He or she would punch the window, slap the window with its hands or slap the window with its branch.

This is a short video clip of how the chimp would smack the viewing window.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


When we think of chimpanzees we think of small, lanky, hairy, creatures with a soft touch.  What this blog is going to cover strays away from our common idea of chimpanzees.

MEET FRODO! He was born on June 30, 1976.  Frodo is described as a "michevious youngster".  He has been living in the Gombe Chimpanzee project and is the largest recorded chimp in their history.  He weighs in at 115 pounds!!!  It's no surprise that such a large chimp would quickly rise to the the top in the heirarchy of chimps.  We can kind of consider Frodo to be a "chimp giant" but as we see within humanity, people who are considered "giants" tend to suffer from heart problems or other medical issues. BUT NOT FRODO! when the other males in his group suffered from an outbreak of sarcoptic mange, Frodo managed to stay healthy and strong. (sacrpotic mange: a mite- related skin infection usually seen in animals with fur)
Frodo has a healthy appetite (loves to eat meat) and is "very agile" for his size! He hunts colobus monkeys to eat them and because of his agility, he is able to jump from tree to tree catching them.  His large size often pressures other chimps to share their food with him.  Frodo quickly learned to throw his weight around to get what he wants.  This kind of behavior has made him quite unpopular.
There was once an occasion where Frodo was bullying the other chimps in the group and dent them hiding, after they left he sat down waiting to be groomed and the same chimps that ran away from him came back to groom him. We have to remember that Frodo is still a wild animal and might not have the capabiltiy to control his vicious attacks.
In 2002 a women who works that the park where Frodo lives was walking down a path with her 16 year old niece and 14 month old baby.  They were walking to visit the womans husband who also worked at the park, just 2 miles down the road.  Frodo saw the 3 and approached the baby.  He grabbed the baby and disappeared.  They could see Frodo up in the trees holding the babys limp body.  Park workers were able to scare Frodo and he left the baby.
 It was debated whether or not to euthanize Frodo.  Park representatives understand Frodo was just exhibiting normal hunting behaviors for chimpanzees since they often hunt the babies of colobus chimps.  Therefore Frodo was kept alive.
 Frodo became sick in 2002 and lost a lot weight but a couple years later in 2004 he seemed to be making a comeback and was gaining his weight back along with his strength!