Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

August 3, 2018 by  
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Approximately 94% of the 111 species and subspecies of lemur are under threat of extinction in their native country of Madagascar – the only place they exist outside of captivity. Of the remaining lemur groups, only six do not face high risk of extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species . This retrogression was revealed by the Primate Specialist Group , a conservation organization that has been analyzing current threats to the survival of lemur populations and their habitats. Chair of the Primate Specialist Group and Chief Conservation Officer of  Global Wildlife Conservation  Russ Mittermeier indicated that the “very high extinction risk to Madagascar’s unique lemurs” would compound, generating “grave threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity as a whole.” Loss of habitat poses the single greatest threat the lemurs now face in the wild. Developments in illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as mining activities and charcoal production, are ultimately determining the fate of these endangered animals. Related: Conservationists sound the alarm to address ‘America’s wildlife crisis’ Lemurs also face threats from pet trading hobbyists or hunters who wish to turn them into food. Once a delicacy, lemur’s presence on menus has become more and more mainstream in Madagascar, according to Professor Christoph Schweitzer of the Bristol Zoological Society . In an interview with BBC News , Schwitzer commented, “More and more, we are seeing unsustainable levels of lemur poaching. We see commercial hunting as well – probably for local restaurants. And this is a new phenomenon for Madagascar – we didn’t see it at this scale 15 years ago” Although many would bow their heads at the unfortunate fate of the lemurs, Schwitzer is an optimist. People “need to shout about these problems and get the message out there” he remarked. “When we published the lemur action plan and the media picked up on it, suddenly we had people call offering to help – to donate money or other resources. That can really make a difference,” he remarked. The “lemur action plan” has already had an effect, protecting habitats that contain the densest numbers of lemur species while helping Madagascar boost its ecotourism in the hopes of tackling poverty. By helping the local people economically, the groups involved in the plan are deterring hunting and other activities destructive to the tropical forests that provide the lemurs with their natural habitat. + Global Wildlife Conservation + IUCN Via BBC News

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Lemurs are now the most endangered species of primate on the planet

Scientists discover new gibbon species inside tomb of Chinese emperor’s grandmother

June 25, 2018 by  
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In a new study published in the journal Science , scientists detail the identification of a new species of gibbon, one that had gone extinct at some point over the past two millennia. The remains of Junzi imperialis were first discovered in 2004, when archaeologists at Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology in Xi’an discovered a mausoleum nearby the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China ‘s first emperor, which is famously guarded by thousands of terracotta soldiers. In addition to the partial skull of the gibbon, the mausoleum contained bones from numerous animals, such as panthers, lynxes, black bears and cranes. The gibbon likely would have belonged to the emperor’s grandmother, Lady Xia. “Having gibbons as pets appears to have been common among Chinese royals during ancient times,” study co-author Alejandra Ortiz told NPR . Years after the gibbon skull was uncovered, London -based archaeologist Samuel Turvey took an interest in its unusual characteristics. The remains were discovered “a huge distance from any of China’s surviving gibbon populations,” hundreds of miles south of the tomb, Turvey told NPR , “which immediately suggested that this specimen could be something extremely interesting.” Research suggests that through deforestation, humans were the likely cause of the gibbon’s extinction. Because of the gibbon’s dependence on the tree canopy ecosystem, it is very vulnerable to the destruction of its forest habitat. Related: Reforestation in China heralds the return of rare animals The discovery of a new, but extinct, ape species brings mixed emotions. “We feel that the discovery of Junzi imperialis is extremely important because it helps us to fill gaps in the understanding of gibbon diversity,” Ortiz said. However, the “discovery is sad, because it reinforces the idea that humans represent a major threat for the survival of species of gibbons and other apes, and our findings suggest that we have been a threat for quite a while.” + Science Via NPR Images via Benjamin Radzun and Eric Kilby

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Scientists discover new gibbon species inside tomb of Chinese emperor’s grandmother

Wild dogs return to Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park

June 25, 2018 by  
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A small group of African wild dogs have returned to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique , heralding a potential upswing in a diverse ecosystem that has suffered severe damage in recent decades. In the almost two decades of civil war that plagued the country beginning in the 1970s, more than a million people were killed by violence or famine while much of the wildlife at Gorongosa was also eradicated. Now, thanks to a collaborative effort between a non-profit group founded by American philanthropist Greg Carr and the Mozambican government, the wild dogs have come home. Still, so much has changed and is continuing to change. “We can’t go back to what exactly it was,” Gorongosa science director Marc Stalmans told Phys.org . “Has the environment changed over the last 50 years in a way that certain previous states can no longer be attained?” Gorongosa’s past informs its future. In 1975, as Mozambique was nearing the end of four centuries of Portuguese occupation, the national park attracted the rich and famous while systematically denying black Mozambicans any significant part of its operation or benefits. Today, local economic development, spearheaded by the Gorongosa Restoration Project, is key to revitalizing the park. The project aims to serve 200,000 people through programs that support local education and farming , among other services. “To me, restoration means to recover what was destroyed, Gorongosa’s Director of Conservation & Reforestation Program Coordinator Pedro Muagura told Phys.org . “Not only to recover, but to improve. The center of everything, what we are doing, is the people.” Related: It “sounded like an explosion:” avalanche of trash kills 16 people in Mozambique Six female and eight male African wild dogs were recently reintroduced to the park, joining an increasingly vibrant local wildlife community. Leopards , which were once thought to have gone extinct in the park, have recently been spotted, while animals like baboons are thriving. Gorongosa incorporates a holistic ecological perspective in its management of the park. “We try to mimic natural processes,” Gorongosa carnivore conservation program leader David Marneweck said. The park plans to expand its research into local water levels, which Stalmans said “have a major influence on the vegetation production and animal movements.” + Gorongosa National Park Via Phys.org Images via Stuart Orford and Charles J. Sharp

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Baboons use a barrel to escape biomedical research institute in Texas

April 18, 2018 by  
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Baboons  escaped a biomedical research facility over the weekend with the help of a 55-gallon barrel. Gizmodo reported  that one clever baboon figured out how to turn a barrel upright and use it to climb fencing. Three others followed and the group hit the road, although one returned on its own — but sadly, their freedom didn’t last long. Baboons hit the road after escaping from a Texas Biomedical Research Institute (TBRI) facility. Inward-leaning walls on their open-air enclosure (seen in the video above) have kept animals from leaving in the past 35 or so years, but that didn’t stop these primates . According to the institute’s statement , the animals rolled the barrel to an upright position to ultimately jump out of the enclosure. An animal capture team, wearing protective masks and suits, captured the three animals who did leave around 20-30 minutes after. Two baboons were held to the tree line, but one made it to a nearby street. ABC News shared a video on Twitter of members of the team chasing one of the baboons on a Texas highway. Four baboons escaped their enclosure at a San Antonio biomedical research facility Saturday. A woman then spotted one leading researchers on a wild foot chase down a Texas highway. All of the baboons were safely returned according to a statement. https://t.co/sA148VbSDd pic.twitter.com/pPBW4V5ZIu — ABC News (@ABC) April 15, 2018 Related: Scientists in China have successfully cloned monkeys There are over 2,500 animals at the institute’s campus; almost 1,100 are baboons. These four escapees were part of a group of 133 males, according to HuffPost , that aren’t currently being used for testing. TBRI assistant vice president for communications Lisa Cruz said in the institute’s statement baboons “have played an important role in the discovery of life-saving drugs, therapies, and vaccines and have led to greater understanding of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and so much more that impact the lives of millions of people.” The barrels, introduced in the enclosure just six to eight months ago, were what TBRI calls enrichment tools, and they’ve been removed. TBRI reported the returned baboons are doing well, but not everyone on social media thinks the baboons should have had to go back to the institute. People on Twitter called for the primates to find a new home in an animal sanctuary . This is heartbreaking. 4 baboons worked together to roll a 55 gallon barrel and escape the research facility where they were subject to horrifying medical experiments. They earned their freedom. Let them go to a sanctuary. Some animals are too sentient to be subjected to this. https://t.co/pWiykNdAW8 — Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 17, 2018 Four baboons planned their escape from your facility and escaped by positioning a 55 pound barrel so they could climb out. What does that tell you about your facility? You make me sick @txbiomed – have the decency to send them to a sanctuary. https://t.co/jRhD9xjG2L — Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) April 17, 2018 + Texas Biomedical Research Institute Via Gizmodo and HuffPost Image © Clem Spalding Photography (210) 271-7273, courtesy of Texas Biomed

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Baboons use a barrel to escape biomedical research institute in Texas

Civil war in the Congo is putting rare gorillas on the brink of extinction

April 6, 2016 by  
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Many creatures find themselves with dwindling numbers at the hands of mankind, but the fate of the Grauer’s gorilla has nearly been sealed in just the last two decades. Civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo has caused a 77 percent decline in the primates’ population and conservationists are crying for help on their behalf. Read the rest of Civil war in the Congo is putting rare gorillas on the brink of extinction

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Costa Rica’s ‘Land of the Strays’ is a canine paradise where nearly 1,000 dogs roam free

April 6, 2016 by  
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Chinese researchers are intentionally breeding “autistic” monkeys

January 28, 2016 by  
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A group of scientists in China announced the results of a controversial experiment this week: they claim that by using genetic engineering, they’ve bred macaque monkeys with an autism-like disorder. While they intend to use the animals to test treatments and potential cures, some scientists are skeptical that the results will have anything useful to teach us about autism in people. Read the rest of Chinese researchers are intentionally breeding “autistic” monkeys

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Primatologist Plans School Where Apes Learn English

August 8, 2011 by  
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Photo: Chi King / cc As a polyglot fluent in seven languages, French primatologist Dr. Francine Neago can converse in the native tongue of peoples throughout the world — but she’s interested most of all in talking with orangutans. In 1978, Neago spearheaded a program of orangutan language study at UCLA, and, using a specially designed computer program built in collaboration with IBM, became the first (and only) researcher to successfully teach a young ape to read and spell in English. Now, decades after proving that other primates h… Read the full story on TreeHugger

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