Please help us to raise funds to transport Martha to the Jane Goodall sanctuary “Eden” in S. Africa
May 29, 2007, 8:01 pm
Filed under: MONA-UK


MONA is working the director of Accra zoo in Ghana to transport Martha a young female chimpanzee from Ghana to South Africa. However we desperately need funds to cover the costs of transporting Martha to her new home at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Eden sanctuary in S. Africa. These costs will cover vet costs, road transport and flights.

Martha is approx. 13 years old and she had been living in the Accra zoo in Ghana for ten years. However she was recently moved with five other chimps to Kumasi zoo because the facilities in Accra zoo were outdated. She is currently living alone in a tiny cage away from the other chimps because there is not enough room for her. She hasn’t’ handled the move very well and has become depressed and listless so we desperately want to move her in August so we need to raise funds urgently.

The JGI Chimpanzee Eden sanctuary will be a wonderful new home for her. She will be able to meet chimps of a similar age and form the friendships that she desperately needs after living without contact with another chimp for so long. The Eden sanctuary is set on the 1000 hectare Umhloti Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga, in the heart of South Africa and the chimp enclosures are set in semi–wild surroundings.

Please help us today and help us give Martha the new life she deserves.

Please log on to http://www.justgiving.com/MONA-UK-Martha to visit her fundraising page where you can donate quickly and easily. You can also send a cheque made payable to MONA-UK and put “Martha” on the back so we know which campaign.

Thank you for your support.


Palm oil puts squeeze on Asia’s endangered orangutan
May 29, 2007, 7:48 pm
Filed under: Orangutan stories


By Gillian Murdoch Mon May 28, 12:08 AM ET

PALANGKARAYA, Central Kalimantan (Reuters) – Bound hand and foot, disheveled orangutans caught raiding Borneo’s oil palm crops silently await their fate as a small crowd of plantation workers gather to watch.

Lacking only hand-cuffs and finger-printing to complete the atmosphere of a criminal bust, such “ape evictions” have become part of life for Asia’s endangered red apes.

Thousands have strayed into the path of international commerce as Indonesia and Malaysia, their last remaining habitats, race to convert their forests to profitable palm crops.

Branded pests for venturing out from their diminishing forest habitats into plantations where they eat young palm shoots, orangutans could be extinct in the wild in ten years time, the

United Nations said in March.

Fighting against this grim prediction is the Nyaru Menteng Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) centre in Central Kalimantan, which rescues orangutans and returns them to the wild at the cost of US$3,000 per ape.

“They will kill the animals if we don’t go … It’s cheaper to kill the orangutan than put up a fence or snares,” said Lone Droscher-Nielsen, the Danish-born founder of the centre.

While harming the apes is illegal, her centre has amassed a slew of photographs of the grisly fates of some plantation trespassers: Apes with their hands cut off and slashed to death with machetes, and others with bullets through their foreheads.

With dozens captured this year, cages are full, and finding secure land for releases is a constant challenge for the centre.

“It’s not just orangutans — bears, gibbons — everybody is losing their home,” said Droscher-Nielsen.

“If it was only the orangutan, people just say: ‘Well it’s only one species that’s going to go extinct’. But it’s not just one species. Those forests have millions of animals in them that are all going to go extinct if we continue.”


Indonesia and Malaysia together produce 83 percent of the world’s palm oil. Made by crushing fresh fruit, the reddish-brown oil is riding high in the commodities charts, with crude prices up over 15 percent this year after rising 40 percent in 2006.

Used in cookies, toothpaste, ice cream and breads it is the world’s second most popular edible oil after soy.

Demand is also soaring for palm oil-derived biofuel, despite objections from critics who slam the “green” alternative to pricey crude oil as “deforestation diesel” because of the destruction wreaked on forests to make way for palm plantations.

Of 6.5 million hectares cultivated in Malaysia and Indonesia in 2004, almost four million hectares was previously forest, environment group Friends of the Earth calculated.

For orangutan, the clearances are a matter of life and death.

“You can see how desperate the situation is,” said forestry department official Sugianto, 43, as he gestured at row after row of palms in the ape’s last stronghold, Central Kalimantan.

“The company knows the orangutan has a protected status … if they have a permit to clear 60,000 hectares they clear 60,000 hectares, orangutan or not. They only care about their profit.”

Caught and reported to the Borneo Orangutan Survival centre by plantations who say they are trying to be responsible stakeholders, healthy animals are re-released deep in the forest. Those too injured or too young to survive alone join 600 others at the rehabilitation centre.

Forty local Dayak women look after the current crop of 18 palm oil “orphans,” whose mothers have been killed; bottle-feeding them milk, administering medicine and supervising their climbing and nest-building.

“Some people still think it is a strange job, but others think it is normal now,” said 31-year old Sukawati.

After “forest school,” the apes graduate to eventual release.

“They are cute and funny,” said Sukawati. “They make me laugh.”


Orangutans once ranged across Southeast Asia. Now an estimated 7,300 remain on Indonesia’s Sumatra island and 50,000 on Borneo island. An estimated 5,000 disappear every year.

Decades of habitat loss through rampant illegal logging, lethal annual forest fires, and poachers who earn hundreds of dollars for capturing orangutans for the illegal pet trade have all taken their toll.

But this latest threat is the worst, experts said.

“The orangutans can withstand a certain degree of logging, as most loggers don’t take the orangutan food trees,” said Bhayu Pamungkas of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

“But they have no chance with oil palm -& there’s no chance for the orangutan if they clear-cut all the forest.”

To rescue the industry’s green credentials, several Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil companies have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), whose voluntary criteria include a ban on clearing primary forests and areas of high conservation value, such as forests containing orangutan.

Its more than 150 members also include major European end-users like Cadbury-Schweppes, Unilever and the Body Shop, that together take 40 percent of Asian exports, and who want to buy non-destructive palm oil.

But securing private sector support is a balancing act, said Fitrian Ardiansyah, 32, an RSPO board member.

“There is some genuine intention from progressive companies to distinguish between them and the bad guys,” he said.

“But if the push is too hard for them it’s not going to be too difficult to switch the market to China and India, and emerging markets like the Middle East and Africa.”


Like whales, pandas, polar bears, and tigers, shaggy orange orangutan are classed “charismatic megafauna” by academics – endangered animals whose plight provokes compassion and concern.

Cute as they may be, their supporters need to keep perspective, said Derom Bangun, executive chairman of Gapki, the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, and an RSPO member.

“We should see the whole picture, not only the orangutan. They try to manipulate emotional side of orangutans so that housewives in Europe find it very pitiful,” he said.

The country’s clearance of almost 1.9 million hectares of forest a year between 2000 and 2005, Asia’s worst deforestation rate, also needs to be seen in its economic context, Bangun said.

While the government does need to better define which forest areas are to be preserved, not all will be kept, he said.

“Other countries chopped down their forests when they were developing their countries. If they would like us to preserve more than we can, they should do something to help us.”

But while plantation workers have some choice whether they want to buy into the motorbikes and mobile phones offered by palm’s economic opportunities, orangutans have no such choice, those on the front-line point out.

“I’m not against palm oil,” said Droscher-Nielsen. “(But) if there’s not proper protection of the forest the orangutans are not going to make it.”

(Additional reporting by Mita Valina Liem in Jakarta)

U.S. stops breeding chimps for research
May 29, 2007, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Chimpanzee Welfare


By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. National Institutes of Health, which
supports a variety of biomedical studies using animals, will stop breeding
government-owned chimpanzees for research — a step animal rights
advocates lauded on Thursday.

The NIH’s National Center for Research Resources cited financial reasons
for its decision this week to permanently cease breeding of
government-owned chimpanzees for research. A breeding moratorium on
NCRR-owned and supported chimpanzees had been in place since 1995.

The Humane Society of the United States said it suspects that ethical
reasons also were involved in the decision. The group, which opposes the
use of these apes as lab animals, said the decision on ending breeding
likely also means NIH no longer will be acquiring new chimpanzees through
other means.
Because chimpanzees are physiologically and genetically similar to people,
they have been used in medical research defended by many scientists but
scorned by animals rights advocates on ethical grounds.

“This decision is a huge step towards a day when chimpanzees are no longer
used in invasive biomedical research and testing,” Kathleen Conlee of the
Humane Society said in a statement.


“This will spare some chimpanzees a life of up to 60 years in a
laboratory. While it doesn’t help chimpanzees already living in
laboratories, it is a monumental decision,” Conlee added. “Our ultimate
goal is to put an end (to) the use of chimpanzees in research and retire
those chimpanzees to permanent and appropriate sanctuary.”

The Humane Society said the NCRR’s chimpanzee population includes about
500 in laboratories and 90 more in a federal sanctuary for those deemed no
longer needed for research.

In a statement on its Web site, NCRR said it acknowledges the continuing
importance of chimpanzees to biomedical research, but cited “fiduciary
responsibilities” to maintain the health and well-being of chimpanzees
already in its care.

The center said chimpanzees can live at least 50 years in captivity, and
that high-quality care for a single animal over its lifespan can cost up
to $500,000. It said it also must meet budget responsibilities to other
programs and resources.

“Therefore, after careful review of existing chimpanzee resources, NCRR
has determined that it does not have the financial resources to support
the breeding of chimpanzees that are owned or supported by NCRR,” the
center said.

“However, NCRR will continue to honor its commitments to the existing
chimpanzee facilities, including the federal sanctuary for chimpanzees
that are no longer needed in biomedical research,” the center added.
The advocacy group Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in
U.S. Laboratories said about 1,300 chimpanzees are currently in U.S.
laboratories. It said some were caught in the wild as babies in Africa
while others were born in laboratories or sent from zoos, circuses and
animal trainers.

Theodora Capaldo, the group’s executive director, said that “not only U.S.
but also world sentiment is growing in support of the day when no
chimpanzees will be used in laboratory research.”
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Like Humans, Chimp Males Cooperate With Kin and Non-Kin Alike
May 5, 2007, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


Sean Markey and Victoria Jaggard
for National Geographic News

Bees do it. Monkeys do it. We do it. Cooperate, that is.

Why humans cooperate and why we select particular collaborators are questions scientists have puzzled over for years.

Now research into the behavior of chimpanzees—our closest confirmed genetic relations—is providing new insights into the ways kinship affects cooperation.

The work also offers some of the first evidence that humans are not the only species to develop complex cooperation with both relatives and nonrelatives.

Kevin Langergraber, a biological anthropologist at the University of Michigan, led the six-year study of chimps in Kibale National Park, Uganda.

By combining field observations with DNA analysis of fecal samples, his team found that male chimps prefer to work with their brothers by the same mother.

The chimps often teamed up with these siblings to perform one of six observed behaviors, such as grooming fur or forming a two-chimp alliance to beat up a third individual.

But the scientists also discovered that male chimps frequently cooperate with unrelated or distantly related males in their community to perform tasks such as group hunts for red colobus monkeys or patrolling territory boundaries for intruders.

Langergraber team’s results appear today in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Kin Selection

Why humans, chimps, or any other animal evolved cooperative behavior gets at the age-old question, What’s in it for me?

(Related news: “Monkeys Show Sense of Fairness, Study Says” [September 17, 2003].)

“Well, like everything in biology, we assume that it’s going to increase our reproductive success,” Langergraber said.

That success can be direct, like finding a mate and having offspring. Or it can be indirect, like helping out a relative and thus advancing the family bloodline.

The family-bloodline scenario is the basis of a theory called kin selection, which holds that animals should prefer to cooperate only with their relatives.

In so doing, they reap the indirect but substantial benefit of seeing their family genes passed on—by becoming an uncle or an aunt in addition to, or instead of, a parent.

“Most people had assumed that in animals it’s mainly … through kin selection that cooperative behavior can evolve,” Langergraber said.

“But here we’re suggesting that’s not entirely the case with chimpanzees, who are famous for being one of the most cooperative animals in the world.”

Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal said: “I think we have long known or suspected that chimpanzee males cooperate very well with nonrelatives.”

Nonetheless, some economists and anthropologists have “preferred to depict chimpanzee cooperation as mainly kin-based” to make the claim that human cooperation is unique, he noted.

“Now we finally have a study that includes not only [chimp] behavior but also genetics, giving us the ultimate proof that non-kin cooperation is extremely well-developed in wild chimpanzees,” de Waal wrote in an email.

“This study will put to rest once and for all that only humans know reciprocity-based cooperation. As such, it is highly significant.”


Chimps are people too, insists scientist
May 5, 2007, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Interesting Chimp Stories


AN EXPERT on primates is to tell a court that apes are people, in a groundbreaking case that will determine whether a chimp can have human rights.

Jane Goodall, known worldwide for her study of chimpanzee social and family life, has agreed to testify that apes deserve the same treatment as humans.

The case has been filed in an Austrian court by Paula Stibbe, 38, a Briton who wants to become the legal guardian of a chimp called Matthew. The case was accepted by the court before officials realised Matthew was a primate, but their efforts to have it dismissed have failed.

The case centres around money given to Matthew by a well-wisher to safeguard his future after the animal home where he lived went bust. Ms Stibbe and her lawyers say he should have the same rights as a child and have a guardian to help him spend it. Ms Stibbe said: “Matthew likes watching TV and videos and playing games like any child, and can use signs and gestures to say what he wants. Of course he has the right to be recognised as an individual.”

This is the second legal action in Europe to address whether primates should be guaranteed human rights; the Socialist government in Spain has proposed a law to allow moral guardianship of great apes, akin to the care for severely disabled or comatose people.

Ms Stibbe moved to Vienna nine years ago and shortly afterwards got involved in helping to care for Matthew. He and another chimpanzee, called Rosie, share a room at an animal shelter in Voesendorf, south of Vienna. They were seized by customs officers and given to the sanctuary after being imported by a pharmaceuticals company, which wanted to use them for HIV research. When a court ordered the sanctuary to hand the chimps back, animal rights campaigners staged a mass protest, and the company gave up.

The pair, both now 26, have lived at the sanctuary since then, but when it went bankrupt, an anonymous donor gave several thousand pounds to Matthew to safeguard his future.

Dr Martin Balluch, an animal rights campaigner who instructed lawyers to file for guardianship for Ms Stibbe, said: “

We argue that chimps are part of the same genus as humans and that they also incorporate all the characteristics to justify personhood, in that they recognise and anticipate the rights and needs of other individuals.”

The court will make a decision on how to proceed once documents on Matthew’s background are provided.

A move to have the case thrown out failed after expert testimony running to dozens of pages seemed to back Matthew’s rights to human status.

The experts pointed out that chimps differ from humans by only 1 per cent of their genetic material, can accept a blood transfusion and can learn and use human languages through signs or symbols – although they lack the vocal dexterity to master speech.

Not all experts agree, however. Steve Jones, a professor of genetics at the University of London, said human rights did not apply to animals, adding: “If you start, where do you stop? Being human is unique and nothing to do with biology. Mice share 90 per cent of human DNA. Should they get 90 per cent of human rights? And plants have more DNA than humans. Chimps can’t speak, but parrots can – should they have rights too?”

Donald Gow, a primate keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, said: “This is a debate that won’t go away. But Edinburgh Zoo believes that chimps are best left alone by humans. We have a chimp called Ricky who spent the first five years of his life on board a ship in the merchant marine. He still displays human behaviour and has not been fully accepted by the other chimps”.

• CHIMPANZEES and humans differ by just over 1 per cent of DNA, and there are striking similarities in the composition of the blood and the immune responses. In fact, biologically, chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas.

The chimpanzee (along with the gorilla and bonobo) is capable of intellectual performances once thought unique to humans. In the wild, they are capable of sophisticated co-operation in hunting. They use more tools for more purposes than any other creatures except ourselves. And they show the beginning of tool-making behaviour.

In captivity, chimpanzees can be taught human languages such as ASL (American Sign Language), learning 300 or more signs, and there are uncanny similarities in the nonverbal communication patterns of chimps and humans – examples include kissing, embracing, patting on the back, touching hands, tickling, swaggering, shaking the fist and brandishing sticks.