Chimpanzees produce 200 times more sperm than gorillas, the world’s largest primates, and 14 times more than orangutans, scientists based in Japan reveal.
Promiscuous ape species have bigger testicles, and the latest discovery finally provides evidence that they also produce more sperm.
Scientists previously proposed that chimps have large testicles because several males mate with a single female, and so have to produce more sperm in order to compete.
For their research, published in the American Journal of Primatology, scientists studied chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas from zoos in Japan and Indonesia.
Analysing samples of testicular tissues at a microscopic level, researchers found remarkable variation between the apes.
They found that the sperm-producing tissue lining gorillas’ testes was much thinner than that of orangutans and chimpanzees.
Chimpanzees were found to produce 14 times more sperm than orangutans and even more than the world’s largest primates.
"Our data indicated that a chimpanzee usually produces about two hundred times more sperm than a gorilla," explained researcher Hideko Fujii-Hanamoto.
For these three species of ape, the scientists have now proven that testes size is proportionate to sperm production.
The researchers claim that these findings also support theories that sperm production relates directly to reproductive competition and mating behaviour.
Previous studies proposed that testes are smaller in polygynous species such as gorillas where one alpha male monopolises mating with multiple females.
In promiscuous species such as chimps however, there is greater competition between males as several copulate with one female.
This competition is thought to be the driving factor for sperm production and larger testes are thought to produce more sperm.
However, practical limitations meant sperm production in apes was difficult to accurately measure.
"It is generally difficult to get semen from the animals even if they [are] kept in zoological gardens," said Ms Fujii-Hanamoto.
"Therefore, the testis weight or the ratio of testis weight [to] body weight was used to estimate the ability of sperm production."
Visual observations confirmed that chimpanzees have larger testes compared to their body size than gorillas but it was not clear whether they actually produced more sperm.
From BBC Earth News
Video Suggests Mother Chimps May Grieve Death Of An Infant
The death of a baby chimp caused responses in a mother chimpanzee not typically seen directed toward live infants, but it’s unclear whether she was actually mourning, researchers say.
The new report may help improve understanding of how chimpanzees, one of humans’ closest primate relatives, respond to and learn about death, the study authors noted.
In the study, the researchers observed and made videos of a mother chimpanzee whose 16-month-old infant just died. After carrying the dead infant’s body for a day, the mother placed the body on the ground in a clearing and repeatedly approached the body and held her fingers against the infant’s face and neck for a number of seconds.
The mother remained near the body for nearly an hour, watching it from a distance, then carried it to a group of chimpanzees and watched as they investigated it. The next day, the mother did not carry the body.
The research, conducted by a team at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, was released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of theAmerican Journal of Primatology.
"The videos are extremely valuable, because they force one to stop and think about what might be happening in the minds of other primates. Whether a viewer ultimately decides that the chimpanzee is mourning, or simply curious about the corpse, is not nearly as important as people taking a moment to consider the possibilities," researcher Katherine Cronin said in an institute news release.
I find it a little odd that this behaviour is being written about as though it is something new and incredible. Grieving behaviour has been witnessed in Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and Orangutans for a long time now. I have posted examples of this before, here,here, and here. In fact, even as a young child, at least around 12 years ago, I knew that ape mothers with recently deceased young carried the corpses away from the rest of the group, and sat with them for a considerable amount of time, or even refused to let go of the body, carrying it around with them for a number of days. — PrimateWin x
Ugandan Chimpanzees May Be Hunting Red Colobus Monkeys Into Extinction
Red colobus monkeys in Uganda’s Kibale National Park are being hunted to extinction—by chimpanzees. According to a study published May 9 in the American Journal of Primatology, this is the first documented case of a nonhuman primate significantly overhunting another primate species.
(The taxonomy of Ugandan red colobus monkeys is in dispute. Some scientists consider them a species,Procolobus tephrosceles, whereas others identify them as a subspecies,P. rufomitratus tephrosceles.)
The study examined nearly 33 years of primate census data (covering 1975 to 2007) and found that the endangered Ugandan red colobus monkey population dropped 89 percent during that time, mainly as a result of being hunted by common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).
There were other factors affecting the colobus monkeys’ survival, including disease and competition from other herbivorous monkeys, which are being crowded into smaller areas as their forest habitats shrink, but those were found “to be relatively insignificant compared with predation by chimpanzees,” according to the paper. The decline was furthered by the fact that chimpanzees preyed more on juvenile monkeys which had not grown old enough to reproduce, hurting the population’s chance to bounce back.
Meanwhile, the authors found that the number of chimpanzees in the area has risen by 53 percent.
So why are the chimpanzees thriving and overhunting the red colobus monkeys, yet leaving other monkey species alone? That’s unclear—it’s uncertain whether any other source of chimpanzee food has declined or if drought or any other factors may have influenced the change in hunting patterns.
What is clear is that in the last few years chimpanzees have actually reduced their hunting activity for some reason. As a result, younger chimpanzees are not as skilled at it, which means they red colobus may yet have another chance in the area.
From The Scientific American
Capuchin monkeys, that are found across Central and South America, routinely urinate in their hands and rub the liquid around their body.
The reason for the strange habit has been a mystery to scientists for years.
Some thought the urine lowered body temperature, while others claimed it enabled the monkeys to identify particular individuals by smell.
Now the mystery has been solved. A new study, published in the American Journal of Primatology, has found the urine ‘turns on’ female monkeys.
Researchers at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, carried out brain scans of female tufted capuchins as they sniffed the urine. The urine of sexually mature males produced more activity than the urine of juveniles.
This suggests males wash with their urine to signal their availability and attractiveness to females.
Dr Kimberley Phillips, a primatologist, said females know which males to pursue from the smell of the urine.
“Since female capuchins [when they are most fertile] actively solicit males, we reasoned that urine washing by males might provide chemical information to the females about their sexual or social status,” she told the BBC.
“Female capuchin monkey brains react differently to the urine of adult males than to urine of juvenile males.”
“’We suggest that this is used as a form of communication to convey social and or sexual status.”
From The Telegraph
Bonobos Make Most Noise When Mating With High Ranking Partners
The new study by researchers at the University of St Andrews suggests that females produce copulation calls as a way of showing off high powered relationships during sexual interactions. The psychologists set out to study vocal communication in apes, in particular investigating the social use of copulation calls in female bonobos.
Bonobos, the sister species of chimpanzees and closest living primate relative to humans, are known for their extensive use of non-reproductive sex for social purposes, such as making friends within groups.
Researcher Zanna Clay commented, “During mating events, females of many primate species produce loud and distinct vocalisations known as ‘copulation calls’, which are considered to promote the caller’s reproductive success. “Female bonobos are unusual amongst the non-human apes in terms of their heightened socio-sexuality. We found that female bonobos engaged in frequent sexual interactions with both males and other females, while producing copulation calls in both contexts.
“However, during same-sex mating, calls were always given by the lower-ranking partner, while the likelihood of calling increased with the partner’s rank, regardless of the partner’s gender.” The study, published in the latest edition of science journal Biology Letters, suggests that the increase in calls is a sign of signifying powerful friendships as well as pleasure.
The researcher concluded, “Our results highlight the social significance of sex in this species and suggest that copulation calls in bonobos have undergone an evolutionary transition from a purely reproductive function to a more general social function. “Like humans, sex among bonobos is not only used for reproduction, but it is also important in friendships and bonding, and keeping close to those in power.”
Rambunctious one-year-old Teco, a third-generation captive-born bonobo at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, has an ape’s usual fondness for games and grapes. But perhaps because of trauma from a difficult birth (his mother was in labor for 60 hours) or a genetic predisposition, Teco is different from his bonobo peers in ways that resemble autism in young children. He could not cling to his mother or nurse the way healthy young apes do instinctively, mimicking the aversion to physical contact seen in children with autism. Teco also tends to fixate on shiny objects and avoids eye contact, and he has trouble coordinating his four limbs. A genetic analysis of bonobos, already under way, may shed light on Teco’s condition and offer new perspectives on autism’s genetic roots in humans.
Wow, this would be amazing if they are able to take photos of this animal. It may sound a little silly - Cryptids and all - but from the descriptions and sightings, it certainly sounds as if there is a brand new species of primate in Sumatra - one that is particularly humanoid. Hair samples have been described as similar to that of Orangutans, but a little different, and the tracks have a human-like heel, the ball of the foot being ape-like, with a long, separated toe. I’m pretty excited to see what they turn up with. I would recommend reading the whole article, as it is very interesting, but quite long, so I can’t put it all here. — PrimateWin x
My first expedition to Sumatra took place in 2003. As the zoological director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology I have been all over the world in search of creatures such as the giant anaconda, the almasty and the Mongolian death worm. But it is Sumatra and the orang pendek that keep pulling me back.
In 2003 I accompanied Dr Chris Clark and Jon Hare to Gunung Tujuh, the Lake of Seven Peaks, in Kerinci Seblat National Park. The jungle around the lake is a hotspot for orang pendek sightings. Our guide Sahar Dimus found tracks of a bipedal creature, but they were too rain-damaged to cast.
In the 1980s Sahar’s father and a friend had been cutting logs to build a house close to where the village of Polompek now stands. The area has long since been deforested. Both men saw a bipedal ape lifting up cut logs and throwing them about. It was covered in blackish-brown hair and was about 1.5 metres (five feet) tall. The hair on the creature’s spine was darker. Its legs were short and its powerful arms were long. The face was broad and black in colour with some pink markings. Both men fled.
We also visited the village of Sungi-Khuning in another part of the park. Here, the year before, a poacher who had set a snare for deer claimed to have caught an orang pendek. The powerfully built ape was struggling with the snare. The poacher tried to jab the creature with his spear but the beast smashed it to matchwood and screamed at him. The poacher fainted and when he awoke the creature had pulled itself free and was walking off into the jungle. It had long, powerful arms and walked erect. We could not find the man to interview him, but explored the jungles beyond the village.
The following May we returned to explore a remote gorge in the park where, apparently, no westerner had been. We interviewed eyewitnesses who had seen the creature on the semi-cultivated land at the edge of the park known as the Garden. The creatures are said to steal sugar cane and other crops. One witness was a farmer called Seman who told us he had seen the creature in an area of land adjacent to a river at noon one day in February 2004. Back then the area was overgrown.
The creature was only visible from the waist upward and probably over a metre tall. It had short black hair, a broad chest with visible pink skin and a pointed head, possibly indicating a sagittal crest. The ears were long. The creature vanished and Seman said that he had the feeling it had fled to the river and swam across it, though he did not see this. The river was a torrent when we were there but in February it was much lower. On visiting the area we worked out that the creature had been 22 metres away from the witness. Seman produced a sketch showing a powerfully built, ape-like creature with broad shoulders, long arms and a conical head. At no time did it raise up its arms, as gibbons do on the rare occasions they move about on the ground.
We returned to the same area the next day to interview another witness, called Ata, who claimed to have seen the creature about three weeks after Seman. He heard a strange ooooha! ooooha! cry coming from the same part of the the Garden where Seman had his encounter. Upon investigation Ata found himself only five metres away from the beast, which was a metre tall and had short black hair. Its prominent chest made him think it was female. Its lower half was hidden by vegetation. He noticed that it had large owl-like eyes, a flat nose, and a large mouth. It seemed aggressive and Ata said he felt the hairs on the back of his hands stand up. Ata produced a drawing of a muscular, upright creature with large round eyes. It lacked the pointed head of Seman’s description.
Our guide Sahar had found an old man called Pak En, the only person who knew the way to the gorge that we had dubbed The Lost Valley. Pak En told us that he had seen an orang pendek in the jungle just above the valley three years ago. He was walking along a jungle trail when he saw it approaching. It was one metre tall, upright, and powerfully built. It had black hair with red tips and a broad mouth. Its prominent breasts made Pak En think it was a female. He noticed that it grasped the vegetation as it moved. It let out an ooooha! ooooha! sound. He watched it move down the trail for two minutes before it saw him. On seeing Pak En it quickly turned about and walked back the way it had come.
After several days’ hard trek we descended into the Lost Valley. After a fruitless search we moved down to the Bangko area, a place of lowland jungle inhabited by the Kubu. We met the local chief of the Kubu, a man named Nylam who said he had seen an orang pendek in the area only three months previously. He had been up a tree at the time. The animal was 1.25 metres tall and covered with red-tinted black hair. It had a broad mouth, walked upright and held its arms like a man. It made a weeeehp! weeeehp! noise and looked about itself as if it could smell its observer. Nylam watched it for half an hour.
It would be another five years before I returned to the jungles of Sumatra. Joining Clark and me was Adam Davies (who already had a number of expeditions under his belt) and Dave Archer.
1) If we evolved from monkeys / apes, why do they still exist?
2) The belief that we evolved FROM the other great apes.
This little graph makes it a bit clearer for those who may not understand - the evolution of us, the human ape, can be a little confusing when you just read about it.
You see, we had common ancestors. We share 99% of our DNA with Chimpanzees and Bonobos, and as you can see, our most recent common ancestor was with them, but we did not evolve directly from them.
We share a much older common ancestor. This common ancestor evolved FROM other species - Prosimians (Lemurs, Tarsiers) and the New World. It then split into two branches - the Old World Monkeys, and the Lesser Apes, and Great Apes. Therefore, we are very distantly related to primates like Lemurs and Bush Babies.
It is my understanding that our ancestors travelled, and thus split into different groups in different geographical locations. This then meant that, through speciation, different habitats resulted in different species.
We’re actually related to every living organism on the Earth - however distantly. This little chart shows some interesting ones!
My apologies, when I took these graphs from the internet, I didn’t take the source. If anyone knows where this is from, let me know, and I’ll credit.
A Gray Titi Monkey was born at the Bronx Zoo in April and has just now gone made it’s debut on exhibit with mom. In fact, you can hear them sing together early in the morning. Gestation for the Bolivian gray titi monkey is about 132 days, a little over 4 months. A single baby is usually born; very rarely, twins are born. Gray titi monkeys live in family groups, which usually consists of a breeding couple and several offspring. The father will help wtih the baby, carrying it on it’s back in the first few days after birth. Older brothers or sisters may also help in this same way. The Wildlife Conservation Society, which owns the zoo, works in Bolivia where gray titi monkeys live in the wild. This species is endangered largely due to habitat destruction.
New White Monkey Species Found In Sri Lanka's Rainforests
The members of Galle Wildlife Conservation Association say that they have identified a new species of white monkeys from Sri Lanka’s World Heritage site of Sinharaja rain forest.
The researchers have confirmed that the new species was not an albino of the common black monkey found in Sinharaja forest.
Chairman of Galle Wildlife Conservation Association Madura de Silva said that they traced this white monkey species in several places in the southern region of the Sinharaja forest during a survey conducted with the assistance of the Biodiversity Unit of the Ministry of Environment.
The group issued the photos of the white monkeys they took following the information from the treacle tappers in the border villages of Sinharaja.
The research team has observed 26 monkey troops in the rain forests and home gardens around Galle and Matara districts and found 30 individuals with unusual white color in 14 troops.
The group comprising Madura de Silva, Nadika Hapuarachchi and P.A. Rohan Krishantha, reports that the white monkey is a color morph of the southern purple faced leaf langer and systematic DNA testing is needed to determine subspecies and form accurate maps of locations.
Getting “Mean Girled” In The Baboon World: The Price of Being Sexy
By now, I know of few people who haven’t seen the movie, Mean Girls. But in case you haven’t, here’s what you should know about it: the story is essentially an explanation of social cliques and aggressive teenage girl behavior. As a study recently published in Behavioral Ecology suggests, this agonistic behavior between females in cliques is not exclusive to human primates, but is found in our non-human primate kin as well.
Over 18 months and 1027 interactions, Huchard and Cowlishaw (2011) discovered a correlation between sexually receptive female baboons and female-female aggression in groups. In female baboons, sexual receptiveness is typically a period in which individuals are estrous, or “in heat.” A way in which a female can display this information is through sexual swellings, or a swelling of the perineal skin, which indicates ovulation. Additionally, females with wider sexual swellings are perceived as “sexy,” as they attained sexual maturity earlier and generally have more offspring that survive (Domb and Pagel 2001).
With that in mind, enter female-female competition. Female-female competition is thought to occur more often under circumstances where resources for success in reproductive factors might be limited: for example, yielded access to food resources inhibits successful gestation or production of milk or helpful mates that provide more access to resources through social rank.
In the study performed by Huchard and Cowlishaw, sexual receptiveness was perceived to be the driver of aggressive behaviors as sexually receptive females received the most aggression, while lactating mothers received the least. It is thought this might be a tactic to delay conception; thus, females who have already conceived or have offspring would be more likely to receive access to resources and thereof prevents competition. Females who eat less (or would have limited access to food resources) also tend to have less reproductive success (Altmann and Alberts 2003). In addition, it is also possible by inflicting the cost of aggression onto sexually receptive females, the stress may make it more difficult to conceive or support a pregnancy (Beehner et al. 2006). Therefore, by being aggressive to these sexually receptive females, pregnant females or females who have offspring are conserving their resources and limiting the competition.
While no reports of any baboons getting thrown in front of buses have been reported yet, if it does happen—be sure to check the sexual swelling for the baboon version of Regina George.
From This Is Serious Monkey Business
Simple Moral Test Clearly Displays Prosociality In Chimpanzees.
A paper released this earlier this week has been first to document spontaneous prosocial behaviour in chimpanzees, finally drawing a line under the question as to whether the welfare of others is considered during choice making in this species; a controversial topic, where such behaviours have been often concluded to be absent in any primate apart from humans (generally from research within the social sciences). This research was carried out at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center by Victoria Horner, and Frans de Waal.
Pairs of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) where placed into testing rooms, separated by a mesh barrier. One individual had access to 30 tokens, divided into two separate colours – all of which could be given to the experimenter in exchange for food. Half of these when exchanged resulted in a selfish outcome in which only the individual handing the token received a reward, whereas the other half resulted in an altruistic outcome where both individuals received an equal reward.
The individual handing the tokens to the experimenter was rewarded regardless. If chimpanzees where choosing under a system driven by selfish interests, there should be a preference towards the choice where only the individual in control of the tokens receives a reward, and if the choice was purely random, each token would be expected to be seen 50% of the time. However, it was found that pairs where significantly more likely to share a reward (displaying prosocial behaviour), than choose the selfish option.
Victoria Hornera, J. Devyn Cartera, Malini Suchaka, and Frans B. M. de Waal (2011). Spontaneous prosocial choice by chimpanzees Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences : 10.1073/pnas.1111088108
New Species Of Snub-Nose Monkey Sneezes When It Rains
Almost by definition, species unknown to science are often tough to track down. But researchers seeking out a new species of primate in northern Myanmar were assured by locals that the monkeys aren’t hard to find at all. You just have to wait for it to rain.
The new species, a previously unknown type of snub-nosed monkey dubbed Rhinopithecus strykeri, has a nose so upturned that the animals sneeze audibly when it rains. To avoid inhaling water, the monkeys supposedly sit with their heads tucked between their knees on drizzly days, according to local hunters.
The research team was working on a survey of gibbons in northeastern Myanmar in early 2010 when villagers told them about a monkey with an odd nose and prominent lips. Based on the descriptions, the researchers suspected the locals were seeing snub-nosed monkeys, threatened primates previously found only in China and Vietnam. Intrigued, the team investigated further, surveying field sites and interviewing local villagers.
The monkeys were well-known in the area, with villagers in 25 of 33 locations reporting monkey sightings. Several hunters provided skulls and hides from the monkeys, which have now been placed in museum collections in Switzerland and Myanmar. After studying the specimens, the researchers realized they had a new species on their hands. The monkeys are about 21 inches (55 centimeters) long from upturned nose to rump, but their 30-inch (78 cm) tails more than double their length. Their fur is black with white ear tufts. Except for their white moustaches, the monkeys’ faces are bare and pink.
The villagers in the area call the monkeys “myuk na tok te” or “mey nwoah,” both names meaning “monkey with an upturned nose,” the researchers write. The monkeys themselves live in a mountainous area separated from other species by two rivers. Their range is probably no more than 167 square miles (270 square kilometers), and they likely number no more than 330. That makes the newly discovered monkey critically endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards.
The monkeys are especially threatened by planned dam construction and logging roads in their habitat, the researchers report.
The image here is actually a PhotoShop reconstruction - the only example of the new species the researchers could find was dead. Oh dear. This picture is of a related species, that has been given a digital dye-job to represent the new species. — PrimateWin x
Proboscis Monkeys Have Been Filmed Regurgitating Food
The first monkey that acts like a cow has been discovered — one that regurgitates to give its food another chew, just as cattle do. Cows, goats, sheep and other ruminants chew plants, let their meals soften in their stomachs, and then throw up the larger bits into their mouths to munch on this cud some more. This chewing helps them break down their food and get at all the nutrients within. Primates such as humans and monkeys seemed to cover the full gamut of all dietary strategies seen in the animal kingdom, save rumination. Now scientists find the proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) on the island of Borneo apparently chews its cud, too.
Investigators used video cameras and binoculars to monitor about 200 proboscis monkeys, which lived off fruit and leaves along a tributary of the Kinabatangan River in Malaysia. These primates get their names from the males’ large noses, which are thought to be used in attracting females. Working in the field presented several challenges.
"There are, of course, a lot of mosquitoes and leeches in the forest," researcher Ikki Matsuda, a primatologist at Kyoto University in Japan, told LiveScience. "The rainy season was the worst — the river water came up to our waists even inside the forest."
"It was really scary because at that time, crocodiles also came into the inland forest, and many creatures like centipedes and spiders came up to me on the water," Matsuda added.
The researchers saw 23 monkeys chew their regurgitated food at least once. The monkeys apparently suck in their abdomens and stick out their tongues before they regurgitate, keeping all the cud in their mouths.
The scientists continuously observed one adult male for 169 days and watched him chew his cud for 11 days. This rumination usually happened when he spent more time eating, suggesting that regurgitation helps the monkeys deal with more food and possibly helped them eat more.
Gorillas and even people have been known to chew regurgitated food, but this is regarded as pathological behavior — these monkeys, on the other hand, seem to do it as part of their diet.
Like Humans, Chimpanzees Can Engage In Guerrilla Warfare With Their Neighbours. As With Humans, The Prize Is More Land
People are not alone in waging war. Their closest living cousins, chimpanzees, also slaughter their own kind—in brutal attacks that primatologists increasingly view as strategic, co-ordinated assaults rather than random acts of violence. But however tempting it is to see these battles through the lens of human warfare, the motives for chimp-on-chimp violence are poorly understood. In particular, researchers have long debated whether the apes fight for land, or for females.
A report just published in Current Biology may help to settle the question. The study it describes, led by John Mitani, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is the first to offer a detailed picture of organised conflict between chimpanzees. Drawing on a decade of observations in the field, it concludes that, as with human conflict, wars between chimpanzees are fuelled by territorial conquest.
Between 1999 and 2008 Dr Mitani and his colleagues shadowed a group of chimpanzees called the Ngogo, who live in the Kibale national park in Uganda. Most of the time, the Ngogo chimps were anything but model soldiers—squabbling, foraging and lolling about their domain. But on 114 occasions Dr Mitani’s colleague Sylvia Amsler watched large groups of males strike out on silent, single-file patrols to the fringes of their territory.
These forays often turned violent. All but one of the 18 fatal attacks Dr Amsler witnessed occurred during boundary patrols. In each case, males colluded to kill chimps from a neighbouring group.
To understand what motivated this violence, the researchers looked at which chimps were actually attacked. If the purpose of chimpanzee warfare were either rape or the abduction of mates, then the expectation would be that adult males would be the targets of lethal violence. On occasion, they were. But most victims were juveniles, and of both sexes.
Furthermore, chimpanzee mothers were often beaten as the raiders snatched and killed their offspring. Though these assaults on mothers were rarely lethal, patrolling chimps were clearly more likely to batter females than recruit them as mates, suggesting that other motives might drive their violent behaviour.
Milwaukee County Zoo Uses Technology To Engage Great Apes
Primates all over America are discovering the Apple iPad - and that includes Mahal and his surrogate mother, M.J., two of the Milwaukee County Zoo’s orangutans.
The zoo is using four donated iPads, plus another belonging to a volunteer, for enrichment activities that include free apps (finger painting, music) and videos of other animals at the zoo.
Keepers also are considering using Skype, an Internet video chat program, to connect orangutans in other zoos with each other. M.J., for instance, came from a Toledo zoo in 2007 and might check in on the old gang back in Toledo.
Other zoos, including Zoo Atlanta, use touch screens with orangutans, but the Milwaukee County Zoo is the only one in America using iPads. Orangutan Outreach, a nonprofit that works on behalf of the endangered orangutans, is working with zoos on starting up similar programs.
Milwaukee’s iPad project - described as “embryonic” by orangutan keeper Trish Khan - began with an April Fools’ Day joke by The Sun newspaper in Britain. It ran a story about a gorilla who got his hands on a man’s iPad, cranked up the “Angry Birds” game app and caused all sorts of trouble for the iPad owner.
Claire Richard, the primary gorilla keeper at the Milwaukee County Zoo, saw the report and posted an item on Facebook: “I want one of these for Maji (one of the gorillas at the zoo).”
A friend, Zoo Pride volunteer Kim Houk, replied, “How cool would that be; get one for Mahal, too!”
Self-described “friend of the zoo” Scott Engel, a freelance photographer, developer of apps and a big fan of Mahal, saw the note and had a message of his own for Richard:
"I can make this happen."
Engel donated an iPad of his own, and more followed - including one from a customer at an Apple store who overheard him talking about his idea to bring iPads to great apes at the zoo. A volunteer saw Engel working with M.J. on the iPad and asked if he’d like a couple more, so she donated two brand new iPads.
The gorillas were wary of the new device, and remain so.
"They were all very scared," said Richard, the primary gorilla keeper. "It’s a different species. Orangutans are curious about everything. Gorillas are afraid of everything.
"Because it’s something new and different, they’re real hesitant to even approach it. Hodari, the youngest one (16), had the most curiosity. . . . Hodari was able to figure out the finger painting," Richard said.
"Maji (an older gorilla) just wanted to break it. He couldn’t figure out what the whole thing was, and he just wanted to get hold of it."
But the inquisitive orangutans were another story.
Mahal’s first look at the iPad was a photo of himself. His reaction: He threw his arms into the air and clapped.
"They were enthralled," Engel said. "One of the first things we did was take advantage of the built-in camera on the iPad, and turn the camera on them, because they’re used to looking into a mirror and recognizing themselves."
Engel and the keepers looked for other ways to use the iPad and came up with videos of other animals in the Milwaukee zoo as well as other zoos.
M.J. likes to watch videos of Tommy, a male orangutan who was separated from Mahal and M.J. about a year ago after he became rough with Mahal.
"Mahal loves the penguins," said Engel, who made a video of them at feeding time. "He just sat there watching them, with his arms folded across his chest. He jumped back when the penguins flapped a wing."
Engel also produced a short video that portrays Mahal as a secret agent named 00 ¾, with spy music and comic footage of Mahal in his enclosure, goofing around in a box and covered with an old sheet. It’s his favorite video.
Khan and Engel also use free apps - some of them mimicking the enrichment activities they already use, but with less mess, such as the finger-painting app.
"The reason I liked that one is if I give them regular finger paints, they eat ‘em," Richard said. "It’s like colored pudding."
Scientists Claim Capuchins 'Understand Using Money' - And Can Even Sniff Out A Bargain
Researchers claim to have conducted experiments showing that monkeys can be taught how to spend money and even know how to find a bargain.
Scientists from Yale University carried out a series of tests with capuchin monkeys by giving them coin-like tokens to see if they would trade them for food items.
Academics discovered that the animals held on to the tokens as though they valued them, as well as learning how to exchange them for pieces of fruit and waiting during transactions.
The group of capuchin monkeys even appeared to grasp the concept of ‘bargain hunting’ by flocking to lower-priced pieces of fruit, according to the study.
In research published this month in ‘Mental Floss’ magazine, Professor Laurie Santos, from Yale University Department of Psychology, outlined how capuchin monkeys were given a ‘wallet’ of 12 aluminium coin-like tokens.
The creatures were then given the option of two food options, in exchange for a food token.
The tests showed that the capuchins, including the alpha male of the group Felix, weighed up the options of both food items before obediently handing over a token in exchange for a piece of orange.
Professor Santos said the monkey’s behaviour showed how the capuchins can be seen ‘contemplating, thinking about what they’re going to buy’.
It is thought that the monkeys behaviour differs from other animals who can also be taught to swap one item for another if there is a chance of obtaining food.
The research in Mental Floss described how the capuchins weighed up their options as ‘cautious, observant shoppers’, a trait previously only seen in humans.
Yale economist Keith Chen, who worked with Professor Santos, told the publication: ‘We started investigating whether or not we could introduce them to a basic market economy.
'I’m not even sure we had a good idea of how it would work. But if we could, I knew there were a dozen experiments that people in the economics world would be interested in.'
Describing the process where monkeys appeared to ‘buy’ food, Professor Santos added: ‘When you watch it, it looks like they’re contemplating, thinking about what they’re going to buy.
'What separates these capuchins from the scores of animals who have been trained to perform complex behaviors in exchange for food is the option presented by that second researcher.'
'The critical aspect of money is that it represents a choice. A coin is fundamentally different than, say, pressing a lever.'
Researchers began to experiment further by changing the prices in the ‘Monkey Market’ they had created.Professor Santos described how the capuchins were presented with two equally appealing food options - a Jell-o cube and an apple slice - but with the apple half the price of the Jell-o.
The capuchin monkeys were said to have opted on the majority of occasions for the cheaper food option - thereby reacting to a price shift.
Yale researchers claimed the animals also displayed the same tendency to wrecklessly spend savings as humans.
Professor Santos added: ‘One of the things we never saw in the Monkey Market was savings—just like with our own species. They always just spent all their cash at once.’