Friday, October 30, 2009
No Jury Will Hear, in Workmans Compensation Case, Sandra Herold VS Charla Nash ie: Travis The Chimpanzee
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Good trial lawyers tell compelling stories to juries in the courtroom. But if a court determines the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Division to be the proper legal venue for Charla Nash's story, no jury will hear it. On February 16, 2009, the 55-year-old woman was attacked by a chimpanzee named Travis. The chimp ripped off her face and hands. Now, Nash is blind, eats through a straw, and suffers partial brain damage.
Travis was a 200-pound chimp owned by Nash's employer, Sandra Herold. He turned on Nash when she tried to coax him back inside Herold's home office after he escaped. On the 911 call, there are screams. Travis grunts from exertion in the background. After Travis mauled Nash, the police arrived, and he opened the door to a cruiser. The police shot and killed him as he began to climb inside.
Nash filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Herold alleging, among other things, that Herold was negligent and responsible for her injuries. Herold, in turn, filed a workers' compensation claim on Nash's behalf, listing Nash as a full time employee of Desire Me Motors, Herold's towing company. The question is whether coaxing an escaped chimpanzee was part of Nash's job description. If so, the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Division -- not a jury in Stamford Superior Court -- would hear Nash's story.
Tort law seeks to remedy injustices caused by negligence. It provides a means by which the injured may pursue remuneration from responsible parties. If Nash's lawsuit were to remain before the court, a jury would determine whether Herold was negligent for keeping Travis on the premises. The jury would also have an opportunity to award Nash damages for her pain and suffering.
Workers' compensation generally provides for the resolution of claims without regard to negligence. It caps an employer's liability while providing "automatic" compensation for employees injured on the job. Under Connecticut workers' compensation law, Nash's recovery may be limited to a portion of her salary for a set number of weeks and certain limited damages, as defined by statute. Connecticut workers' compensation law does not allow recovery for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
The facts will be determinative. Nash lost her face, both hands, is blind, eats through a straw, and suffered partial brain damage. Can workers' compensation adequately address this? Perhaps -- if chimp duty was Nash's responsibility as a towing company employee.
Article provided by Williams, Walsh, and O'Connor, LLC
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Thursday, October 29, 2009
This weekend saw the arrival at Tacugama of yet another young chimp prematurely separated from its mother. He’s from the Kangari Hills in the centre of Sierra Leone so we have called him …. Kangari.
He arrived at the sanctuary as the result of sensitisation work undertaken by our chimpanzee census team who were recently in the area towards the centre of Sierra Leone. A couple of weeks after they had been working there, Dr Terry received a call from the head of Cluff Gold, an exploration company based close to the Kangari Hills. He had been approached by someone with a baby chimp hoping to sell it to him as a pet. Thanks to the briefing he’d received from the census team he informed the person that what they were doing was illegal, immediately called Tacugama and arranged to bring Kangari to the sanctuary - a six hour drive from the hills. The person with the chimp claimed that Kangari had been left behind by his mother as she was chased away from raiding crops in a local farm. Sadly this is a highly unlikely story - Kangari is probably only 18 months old and it would be very unusual for him to be left behind no matter the stress - and it is much more likely that his mother was trapped and killed.
Kangari was very nervous on arrival and also full of cold. He’s small for his age (based on the growth of his teeth) and underweight.
Fortunately he’s settling into quarantine, recovering from his cold and developing a huge appetite!
Here you can see a picture of Kangari’s original home in the beautiful Kangari Hills.
But sadly on closer investigation, it’s not as unspoilt as it looks.
Perhaps one good thing that should come from Kangari’s arrival is the chance to build a relationship with Cluff Gold so that as they prospect for mineral resources that could create an income for this very poor country, we can propose protection for important habitat areas to be included in their development plans.
Also to let you know that Posseh is busy preparing her answers to your questions - you gave her quite a lot! She should be ready to share her answers in a couple of days.
Vila, the third-oldest western lowland gorilla in the U.S., unwraps presents while celebrating her 52nd birthday at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park in San Diego, California, October 28, 2009. Vila received presents full of fruit, nuts and seeds, and ate a peanut butter-frosted banana ice cake topped with carrot candles.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
This is the satisfied look of a gorilla who is a hit with the female of the species.
Oumbie, a 28st silverback, arrived at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire on September 2 with the task of producing offspring.
He has successfully wooed two lady gorillas and one may be pregnant already.
At his previous home, Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, the 17-year-old great ape was kept in an all-male group.
Casanova: Silverback gorilla Oumbie was moved to Twycross Zoo in Warwickshire to mate with female apes
But it seems life in mixed company suits him. Oumbie created quite an impression when he crawled out of his crate at his new home, according to animal keeper Donna Smithson.
She said the females gave him 'a bit of a hard time to start with', but he soon won them over.
'Gorillas make flirty noises and strut about to try to impress each other,' she said. 'Oumbie has shown himself to be pretty good at that type of thing already.
'He has mated with Ozala so it's possible that she is pregnant already, although it sometimes takes a few encounters, as it were.
Cheeky monkey: The ladykiller was picked out of a stud book available to zoos to help them find suitable mates
'He got there quite late at night so went straight to bed, but by September 4 he was in there with the two girls.
'They both gave him a bit of a hard time to start with but he has wooed them now.'
The western lowland silverback gorilla was picked out of a stud book available to zoos to help them find the best possible mate for females.
His details were a match for the two girl apes and he has already proved his worth with his prowess with the ladies.
Despite there already being a six-year-old male gorilla, Matadi, at Twycross Zoo, Oumbie is now firmly in charge.
'I'll have you tonight': Oumbie [background], has already proved a hit with the ladies, wowing the single apes Asante and Ozala
Twycross Zoo spokesman Kim Riley said: 'He has already got to work on the women.
'We are hoping that the breeding programme turns out to be a success. I guess he really is a lady-killer gorilla.'
Gorillas are the largest of the Great Apes and as with all apes they differ from monkeys by having no tails. They spend most of their time on the ground away from the trees, hidden in the jungles of Africa.
All of them walk by using their hands as extra legs, supporting the massive weight of the front of their body on the knuckles of their large fleshy hands.
Western lowland gorillas are an endangered species and are part of an internationally co-ordinated conservation breeding programme.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Climate change ‘will put endangered monkeys at further risk’
Mark Henderson, Science Editor
Several endangered species of monkey are likely to be pushed further towards extinction by the effects of climate change, research has suggested.
At least four primates from South America that appear on the international Red List of endangered species are adversely affected by climate phenomena that are predicted to worsen as the world warms, scientists have found.
The muriqui, the Colombian red howler monkey, the woolly monkey and Geoffroy’s spider monkey, have all declined in population either during or soon after recent El Niño events, according to a study from a team at Pennsylvania State University.
Many scientists expect El Niño events, in which abnormally warm ocean temperatures in the southern hemisphere affect the climate, to become stronger or more frequent over the next century.
This could create fresh pressures on species that are already under threat. The muriqi and Geoffroy’s spider monkey are officially endangered, while the woolly monkey has vulnerable status and the Colombian red howler is classified as declining but of least concern.
Ruscena Wiederholt and Eric Post, of Pennsylvania State University, who conducted the study, said that it highlighted the need for more research into how rising temperatures might affect the ateline primate family, to which all four species belong, and other endangered primates.
They said that their findings were particularly concerning because El Niño was shown to have a negative impact on all four species, even though they were native to different parts of South America.
“Our results indicate that global climate change and increased El Niño events could pose a serious threat to ateline primates,” they wrote in the journal Biology Letters.
“Given that the status of many primate species is already precarious, in the face of continued global change, further studies to quantify the effects of climate and environmental variability on primate species are needed.”
Dr Post said: “El Niño events are expected to increase in frequency with global warming. This study suggests that the consequences of such intensification of the El Niño Southern Oscillation could be devastating for several species of New World monkeys.”
In the study, the scientists examined abundance trends collected by other research groups for four populations of ateline primates: muriquis from Minas Gerais in Brazil, Colombian red howlers from Guarico State in Venezuela, woolly monkeys from Meta in Colombia and Geoffroy’s spider monkeys from Barro Colorado Island in Colombia.
All four species live in social groups and spend most of their time in the trees of tropical forests. Spider and woolly monkeys mainly eat fruit, howlers predominantly eat leaves, while muriquis eat both.
The researchers then investigated how monkey numbers in each population varied from year to year, and compared these with El Niño events. They also used detailed ecological data from Barro Colorado Island, the spider monkeys’ habitat, to track how fruit and leaf abundance varied with the climate.
The results showed that all four monkey species were affected by the El Niño climate cycle. The leaf-eating howler monkeys declined in the year of El Niño events, while those that ate fruit declined in the following year.
Dr Post said that further research would be needed to establish how the El Niño Southern Oscillation and climate change would affect many endangered species.
“Long-term studies like those we derived data from are incredibly valuable for illuminating effects of global warming,” he said. “Unfortunately such studies are also incredibly rare. We hope our results bring attention to the importance of maintaining long-term monitoring efforts.”
Grace Slickwas the lead vocalist for the musical groups Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Starship. In 1996, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Rock Legend Grace Slick Calls on Congress to End Chimpanzee Experiments
Singer’s Voicemail Invites Lawmakers to Capitol Hill Multimedia Exhibit, Urges Passage of Great Ape Protection Act
WASHINGTON—Forty years after pioneering a cultural revolution, Grace Slick is leading another movement. The rock legend is asking Congress to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments and retire federally owned chimpanzees to sanctuaries. In collaboration with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the Jefferson Airplane singer, known for such chart-topping hits as “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” has recorded a voicemail inviting members of Congress and their staffers to a Capitol Hill multimedia exhibit about chimpanzees.
- WHAT: An exhibit exploring the ethical and scientific reasons for Congress to pass the Great Ape Protection Act, (H.R. 1326)
- WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 28, from noon to 2 p.m.
- WHERE: Rayburn House Office Building, first floor foyer
- SPONSOR: The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- INFO: Contact Noelle Callahan at 202-527-7389 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“We all need somebody to love, so I was shocked to learn that laboratories can keep chimpanzees locked up in metal cages about the size of a kitchen table,” says Grace Slick in her voicemail, which will be delivered Monday night. “It’s time for America to join the long list of countries that prohibit invasive experiments on these amazingly intelligent animals.”
As Congress considers the Towns-Reichert Great Ape Protection Act, the Capitol Hill exhibit draws attention to the ethical and scientific implications of chimpanzee experiments. The exhibit will include photos of former laboratory-owned chimpanzees now living in sanctuaries and a video documenting recent chimpanzee abuse at a Louisiana primate research center. It will occupy the first floor foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building on Oct. 28 from noon to 2 p.m. The photo gallery can be viewed online at http://www.pcrm.org/resch/gapa/gallery.html.
As a result of their use in experiments, chimpanzees can experience early separation from their mothers, social isolation, prolonged captivity, sensory deprivation, and repeated physical harm. Recently, ABC's Nightline exposed the abuse of chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana.
The Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 1326) would end invasive research on chimpanzees, release federally owned chimpanzees to permanent sanctuaries, and end federal funding for the breeding of federally owned chimpanzees.
Grace Slick was the lead vocalist for the musical groups Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Starship. In 1996, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
For an interview with Dr. Durham or another PCRM expert, please contact Tara Failey at 202-527-7319 or email@example.com.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.
Chimpanzees in the Mirror
Consider this my first Halloween Post. There have been a couple of well publicized chimpanzee attacks in the U.S. in recent years. A man was mauled in an animal shelter in California by two teen age chimps, and earlier this year a woman was attacked by her friend's pet chimpanzee. Both attacks were extremely brutal, and the more recent one was fatal.
There is a very real horror story in this photograph. We see a happy family: St. James Davis, his wife, and Moe, a chimpanzee they raised from infancy. It was not Moe that attack Davis, but two other chimps in the animal shelter where Moe lived after animal control authorities decided he was too dangerous to keep in a residential neighborhood. It is pretty clear that the older of the attackers saw Davis' visit to Moe as an alliance that was a threat to his alpha status.
To anyone who knows much about them (I know a little), Chimpanzees are fascinating and frightening creatures. They are not people, and people who don't understand this sometimes come to grief for it. But they are more like us, and we like them, than either species is similar to any other.
Like us, Chimpanzees fight wars. Their sole strategy (so far observed) is to penetrate the territory of a rival group, isolate an individual, and them stomp him to death. Oh, and biting off the targets genitals (always the target is male) is a favorite moment. As forests in chimpanzee territories have been logged, chimps groups are being forced into the territory of other groups, thus increasing the incidence of war. Right now, the chimpanzees may be killing each other faster than humans are killing them.Like us, Chimpanzees also hunt. They do so not for any real need, but more for entertainment and for political reasons. Sharing meat is one way to cement alliances with other chimps. Their favorite prey is the red colobus monkey, which they hunt in well organized teams and with rather sophisticated strategies. Advanced hunters will take advanced positions while the rest of the group funnels the fleeing monkeys toward them. The preferred target is a female with an infant. She is slower and has to keep one limb holding on to her baby. The infant is the easy meat. When they catch a monkey, they eat it alive. Here is a clip of a Chimpanzee hunt.
But here is where the real horror comes in. Chimps in Uganda have discovered that there is a slower primate to prey upon. From the London Times:
At least eight children have died in the past seven years in Uganda and Tanzania after being taken by chimpanzees, and a further eight injured. The children were found with limbs and other parts of their bodies chewed off.
In one of the most recent attacks Jackson Alikiriza, a three-month-old baby, was snatched as he was being carried by his mother, Anet, while she harvested potatoes.
Mrs Alikiriza fled when she saw a chimp approaching, but could not outrun the animal. She said: "It grabbed my leg and I fell. Then it took my baby."
By the time help was summoned and the chimp was chased away by a man armed with a spear the baby's nose and upper lip had been eaten away. He died a week later.
This is real horror. It is typical chimpanzee behavior. We are modified chimpanzees.
I love chimpanzees. They tell us a lot about ourselves. I would like to think that their species will survive, but I don't think that it is. Stories of chimpanzees preying of human infants won't help their case.
Violence is much less common in modern civilizations than it was in any earlier period of human history. A male in any contemporary society is much less likely to die by violence than would have been true at any previous point in our past, and that is true even with all the deaths in all the modern wars combined. It gets worse the farther back you go. It might be a good thing to keep this in mind, and do whatever we can to make sure it continues. Chimpanzees provide a useful reminder.
In fact, Michael used one of his most famous pets to fool the teenage Paula.
“He punked me with Bubbles the Chimp,” Paula revealed. “Bubbles smelled very strange to me and I love Bubbles, but he smelled really strange and [Michael] said, ‘That’s just the way monkeys smell.”
Paula said she protested Michael’s statement, but he insisted he was correct. Only later did she learn the truth.
“I believe… he doused [Bubbles in] Christian Dior,” she said.
lonely life ever since she came here in 2007. Her partner, Jason has shirked every move of her to get close.
Worried over a potential female going waste, Lucknow zoo has turned to Kanpur zoo for help. "We have written it to them to give their male chimp to us as a breeding loan," said Renu Singh, zoo director.
If Kanpur zoo authorities agree their male chimp Chhajju might come to replace Jason. Chajju is also alone at Kanpur and has a mere display value there. "If Jason replaces him, there will not be much difference," said the director.
The pair of Nikita and Jason was brought at the cost of one of the most popular inmates of zoo, Khushi, the female giraffe. It has been already two years since they are together but have not mated.
Jason, 17, came to zoo with her lady Nikita, 16, in August 2007 from Mysore zoo. The two have a different parentage and there could not be anything like siblings-not-ready-to-mate.
Jason and Nikita were brought after lot of hope. The zoo had lost last chimps' pair of Cheena and Sunny in 2002. Cheena died of tumour and Sunny went into depression after her death and died. The duo had no babies.
Let's see if the insurance industry-sponsored lobbyists who call themselves tort reformers hold any press conferences or buy any advertisements to criticize the frivolous defense being put forth in the case where the pet chimpanzee ripped the face off of a woman. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting because this frivolous legal maneuver benefits the defendant chimpanzee owner's insurance company. Consequently, I don't expect any outrage from the so-called tort reformers. They only seem to become outraged when trials guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution benefit individual citizens.
In the case of the maraudering chimp, the attorney representing the owner of the beast that mauled and blinded a woman is calling the attack a work-related incident and said her case should be treated like a workers' compensation claim. The strategy, if successful, would bar the victim's claim against the chimp's owner and limit her damages to whatever is recoverable under the applicable state worker's compensation statute, which statutes typically provide for partial payment of lost wages and payment of medical bills. Claims for permanent disfigurement, pain, humiliation, embarassment and loss of enjoyment of life (sypmtoms one would expect in connection with loss of one's face) are typically not covered by worker's compensation.
Here's the genesis of the worker's comp defense. Sandra Herold owned a tow truck business called "Desire Me Motors." Travis the chimp's face was painted on the side of the tow trucks and he apparently appeared at company promotional events. Sandra Herold lives in Stamford, Connecticut where she keeps the 200-pound chimp. One day in February 2009, Ms. Herold could not get Travis to come into the house from the yard, so she asked her friend and employee Charla Nash to help lure him back into the house Stamford. The animal ripped off Nash's hands, nose, lips and eyelids, and she remains hosptialized. Nash was an employee of Herold's tow truck company. When police arrived at the scene, Travis attacked them too. The police were forced to shoot and kill the chimp. Test results showed that the chimp had the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in his system. Does helping her "friend" lure her friend's pet into the house sound like part of Nash's duties as a tow truck company employee? Not in a million years.
Nash's family filed a lawsuit against Herold, saying she was negligent and reckless for lacking the ability to control ''a wild animal with violent propensities.'' But Herold's attorney filed court papers saying that Nash was working in the scope of her employment with Desire Me Motors at the time of the attack. He argues that Travis was an integral part of the business, and that Nash's claims against Herold are barred by the workers' comp statute. I wonder if he'll be arguing that Travis was a statuory co-employee.
Here's the good news. We don't need tort reform or any other sweeping government intervention into the legal system in order to address this or any other case. The system will likely sort this case out. For the most part, we have excellent trial judges and responsible jurors in this country. I predict that this workers' compensation plea will not succeed.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Where does Ardi fit?
Ardi Compared To Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Bonobos
Ardi seems to have much more in common with the Bonobo than the Common Chimpanzee at an amateur distance.
Common Chimpanzees are 'knuckle walkers', like gorillas. Bonobos and Ardi were 'palm walkers' who use the outside edge of their palms (Lucy was a bipedal walker, much like modern humans).
Bonobos and Ardi were both probably less aggressive than Common Chimpanzees and Gorillas. Ardi did not have adaptations like sharp canine teeth associated with that kind of hierarchy and male-male competition. Neither Ardi nor Bonobos have major gender differences in size. There are no documented cases of Bonobos killing other Bonobos, while intraspecies killing is known for Common Chimpanzees, and Gorilla aggression has also been observed.
Chimpanzees also have greater size differences between males and females than either Bonobos or Ardi.
Chimpanzees: "Adults in the wild weigh between 40 and 65 kilograms (88 and 143 lb); males can measure up to 160 centimetres (63 in) and females to 130 cm (51 in)."
Ardi: "4 feet tall (120 cm) tall and weighing around 110 pounds (50 kg), Ardi was slightly shorter than Lucy but almost double her weight."
Lucy: (3 feet 8 inches) tall or a couple inches shorter and weighed 29 kilograms (65 lb).
"Height: Male: 73 - 83 cm (29 - 33"); Female: 70 - 76 cm (28 - 30").
Weight: A survey of most of the world's captive bonobos in the 1990's put the average weight of males at 43 kg (95 lb) and the average weight of females at 37 kg (82 lb)."
Gorillas, Common Chimpanzees and Bonobos all live deep in the jungle now, with both one of the Common Chimpanzee species and the Bonobos living close to Africa's Great Rift Valley. Lucy lived on the Savanna. But, this may not always have been the case. Indeed, Bonobos are sometimes called pygmie chimpanzees, and the jungle habitat that they now inhabit could reflect the same kind of dwarfism seen in the two clusters human groups of pygmies found in the Congo jungle. Ardi lived in an open, ground watered forest between the jungle and the savanna similar to forests found in parts of Kenya today, but found farther North in modern day Ethiopia at the time. Was there are Bonobo ancestor that lived in a more open forest?
Common Chimpanzees and Bonobos are specialized to eat fruit. Ardi was more omnivorous that they were, but wasn't suited to eat rougher savanna foods.
The Chimpanzee Phylogeny
The conventional wisdom based on DNA evidence is that:
[T]he Bonobo and Common Chimpanzee species effectively separated from each other less than one million years ago. The chimpanzee line split from the last common ancestor shared with humans approximately four to six million years ago. Because no species other than Homo sapiens has survived from the human line of that branching, both Pan species are the closest living relatives of humans and cladistically are equally close to humans.
It isn't clear to me if the Chimpanzee-Bonobo split is based on genetic data or the fact that chimps are found North of the Congo River, while Bonobos are found South of the Congo River and the fact that the Congo River came into being 1.5 million to 2 million years ago. The four species of Common Chimpanzee collectively outnumber Bonobos about 15-1 (there are currently about 11,000 Bonobos). The genetic data on Bonobos is apparently not very good.
The authors of the Ardi study argue that Ardi's roots are in a common ancestor of humans, the Common Chimpanzee and Bonobo, and that Common Chimpanzees and Gorillas developed their common traits independently of each other.
Few findings of the scholarly write up of Ardi have received more skepticism than the notion that the common traits of Common Chimpanzees and Gorillas do not bespeak a common ancestor with those traits. But, given the recent divergence of Common Chimpanzees and Bonobos, the alternative explanation is that Ardi and the Bonobos developed their common traits independently.
Neither is a terribly pleasing explanation.
Can I spin any better tales?
In a variation on this scenario, suppose that an Ardi was the common ancestor of humans, the Common Chimpanzee and Bonobo from the Gorilla. The DNA for Gorilla-like characteristics was turned off by not absent from Ardi's genome. Drying conditions shifted Ardi's range away from Lucy's kin. When Homo Erectus or the Neanderthals arose and were successful, Ardi was forced back from a native open forest habitat to the jungle. In one group, the Gorilla DNA lurking dormant in the Ardi genome turns back on in a jungle habitat and came to dominate the area North of the Congo River. In the other group, South of the Congo River, the Gorilla DNA stayed dormant, but jungle conditions lead to dwarfism, giving rise to the Bonobos.
In this view, Bonobos are pygmie Ardi, and Ardi existed jungle refuges until a million years ago, although not in the places where Lucy and other hominids arose.
Where Did Human Evolve?
To the extent that Ardi is a key link in the human evolutionary chain, Ardi is one of the best links for localizing geographically within Africa where human evolution took place. This is because Ardi had a quite narrow ecological niche compared to later human ancestors species. Lucy and Homo Erectus, for example, would have had a much wider range. Places within Africa that were either deep jungles or savannas in the period a little more than 4 million years ago are ruled out as locations where this significant link in human evolution could have take place. These places had to include modern Ethiopia, but could have been broader. Arguably similar skeletal remains have been found in Chad, for example.
The fact that each major genus of the hominid family tree is present in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia, which is also home to some of the earliest known modern human skeletons (about 50,000-60,000 years before humans left Africa), and the higher levels of genetic diversity found in East Africa and Ethiopia than other parts of Africa, all suggest that the Awash Valley is very close to historical Eden, and that "historical Eden" had to include the Awash Valley, even if it wasn't limited to it.
The alternate explanation is that these species of pre-humans were present in other places that were less suited to preserving skeletons or haven't been revealed by the cut of a river valley. For example, one could alternately explain the mix of genetic lineages in Africa through the expansion of the Neolithic farming Bantu people in a way that overwhelmed or replaced earlier hunter-gatherer groups. But, the best evidence that we do have points to East Africa and is largely uncontradicted, and Ardi adds an important piece of evidence to the East African Eden hypothesis.
GREENWICH -- Reverse 911 for escaped cheetahs?
The town's top elected official said Monday he supports the idea of using an early warning system to notify neighbors by phone in case dangerous animals were to escape from a private backcountry zoo.
Lionshare Farm, a 95-acre animal sanctuary in Stamford that boasts a Greenwich postal address, recently won federal approval to import three cheetahs from South Africa to its sprawling campus.
Its effort to bring the exotic cats to the backcountry has stoked concern among some residents, including state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, about a potential threat to public safety.
The private zoo and equestrian center, owned by Olympic medalist Peter Leone and his
First Selectman Peter Tesei said an "emergency response system" used by Lionshare to notify residents whose properties abut the animal center would help minimize the safety risks.
"An animal they can't get under control that escapes the perimeter of the property -- I think that's the main issue," said Tesei, adding that he has consulted the Police Department about potential safety issues.
With Lionshare's application to house the cheetahs approved, Blumenthal has said it's incumbent upon the center to assure authorities, such as police and the first selectman, that it's taking all the necessary precautions.
Lionshare representatives have said that the center has taken the utmost precautions to ensure the animals are in safe, contained facilities and are cared for by professional zookeepers and veterinarians.
The cats would join a variety of other animals housed at the center, including a peacock, porcupine, ant-eater, zebra, miniature horse, tortoise, camel, giraffe, two striped hyenas and several small monkeys.
In addition, the state Department of Environmental Protection has confirmed that Lionshare is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to import exotic animals, including cheetahs. The center is also accredited as a zoo by the Punta Gorda, Fla.-based Zoological Association of America.
Despite the precautions, many residents raised safety concerns this summer, citing the mauling of Charla Nash in Stamford by a 200-pound pet chimpanzee that ripped off her hands, nose, lips and eyelids. Nash has been hospitalized since the attack. The chimp, which police killed that day, lived with its owner in a private house.
While citing a need for safety precautions, Tesei also said on Monday that it was important to distinguish between a facility such as Lionshare and a private resident.
"This is so different from the woman in Stamford," Tesei said.
In its import application to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which was approved in September, Lionshare said it was seeking two male cheetahs and a female "for conservation education for the benefit of the residents of Greenwich, and its suburbs where there are no cheetahs in nearby zoos."
Lionshare is not open to the public, but it provides private tours to accredited institutions, nonprofit organizations and other individuals who make appointments in advance, according to representatives there.
The center could seek a second female cheetah as early as next year as part of its plan to breed the animals when the two males, Raphael and Leonardo, are sexually mature, the application says.
The cheetahs will dwell on a contained 3-acre swath of land at the center, measuring roughly the size of 2½ football fields, with a large enclosure to house them at night and during inclement weather, the application says.
While their natural habitat is on the warm plateaus of south and central Africa, cheetahs, which can run at speeds as fast as 75 mph, also have proven to be highly adaptive to cooler conditions, experts say.
Staff writer Colin Gustafson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-625-4428.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The Gorilla Foundation, home of Koko, the gorilla who can speak to us through the use of American Sign
Language (ASL), today announced the winner, selected by Koko herself, of their pumpkin design contest. Pumpkin-loving Koko closely inspected the carved and lighted creation, gently blew into its ear (of all the entries, only the top design she selected sported ears), then dug in and promptly devoured her own smaller carved pumpkin.
Halloween is one of Koko's favorite holidays and every year she eagerly anticipates pumpkin season when her caregivers serve her the orange beauties as well as the roasted seeds. The Gorilla Foundation decided to share Koko's holiday with the community and invited local school, Kings Mountain Elementary, to submit drawings for a pumpkin design contest. The children, grades K-5, drew pumpkin faces. Koko reviewed the designs and selected her top three favorites in rank order. The winner received a photo of Koko posing with the carved pumpkin and a Koko plush doll; the two runners up each received the book "Koko-Love: Conversations with a Gorilla."
Kyle Niermann, of Ms. Bolton's third grade class took first prize. The contest not only delighted Koko, but also helped raise awareness about the Gorilla Foundation's mission of conservation through communication to help protect endangered gorillas.
About The Gorilla Foundation
The Gorilla Foundation is dedicated to the preservation, protection and well being of gorillas through interspecies communication research and education -- Conservation through Communication. The Foundation was established in 1976 and is best known for its groundbreaking work with two western lowland gorillas, Koko and Michael, who became adept at using American Sign Language. The results are published in numerous research papers, books and videos available in our bibliography.
The Gorilla Foundation is a non-profit 501c3 corporation and is underwritten by donations from individuals, grants from foundations and corporations, and educational product sales. The Foundation receives no support from government sources. Donate here.
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Kulesa Faul, Inc./for The Gorilla Foundation
Here is the episode trailer:
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Sunday, October 25, 2009
will attack him again.
Raja is one of the recent victims of the monkey menace reported from the Paharganj area. “I was near my house when the monkey attacked me without provocation. It bit my arm and left only after others came to my rescue. I am scared to even move out on the road as it can attack me from anywhere.”
The other residents of Paharganj area, adjacent to ‘J’ Block of Janakpuri, have had similar tales to narrate in the past two weeks.
They say that despite 20 children having been attacked in the area in the past 15 days, the Forest department woke up to the menace only three days ago after two infant deaths were reported from the area in the past one week, also due to reported monkey attacks.
“We made attempts to contact the Forest department earlier but it was of no use as nobody came forward for help. It was only three days ago that a Forest department team was sent here, but they have been unable to trap the monkey,” said Neera Bhatt, a resident of the area.
It was just three days ago that the 15-day-old son of one Reema was seriously injured by a monkey after she had left him alone at home.
Shatrughan Singh, an Aliganj forester who is part of the rescue team, said: “When she came back, she found the monkey had bitten and scratched the child on its face, stomach and legs. Even as the child was taken to the hospital, he succumbed to injuries,” said Singh.
The same monkey is believed to have attacked a three-day-old infant who too succumbed to his injuries.
“The monkey had attacked six-year-old Kajal, who was playing on the road. When we scared it off, it ran into the house and dragged the infant out of the bed to the staircase area. Usha, the child’s mother who was sleeping with him, cried for help. By the time we reached, the monkey had fled. Despite treatment, the infant succumbed to its injuries” said Sakeena Bano, a neighbour of Usha.
Pointing out that the monkey has shown abnormal traits, Singh added: “The monkey has shown a tendency to attack children and not adults. It sits next to adults, but does not harm them.”
“Also, unlike other monkeys who move around in the troop, this monkey is often seen with a langur, a species of which monkeys are usually scared of,” said Singh.
The residents, meanwhile, have lodged a complaint with District Magistrate Amit Kumar Ghosh.
“I instructed the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Lucknow, to initiate action in the matter,” said Ghosh.
On the reported inaction on part of the Forest department, a senior official with the department said: “I informed the senior officers of the department nearly 15 days ago, but they did not take notice.”
“After the two infant deaths were reported recently, they sent a team in search of the monkey, but returned without much success,” added the official.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Source and Video
Friday, October 23, 2009
Animal rights activists are crying foul about Charles River Laboratories’ efforts to fatten up and then sell obese monkeys for medical research.
“It is horrible that these monkeys are induced with diseases that will make them suffer a terrible death,” said Justin Goodman, a research supervisor at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ laboratory investigations department.
The monkeys are starving because they don't have enough food, and the tourists who usually feed them have not been to the island because of bad weather. The navy now delivers bags of bananas and cucumbers to the monkeys.
Reuters reported that hundreds of monkeys live on the island, which is located within the naval training base. The navy started regularly supplying food to the monkeys after reports that many drowned while trying to catch fish from the sea.
When the boat reaches the shore, the monkeys gather around to await their handout. There used to be about 20 tourists a day who would come to the island to leave food for the monkeys, but that number has dwindled to less than five.
The navy wants the monkeys to live independently and will plant fruit trees on the island. Captain Chatchavarl Meesawasdi of the Naval Rating School said on a Taiwanese Web site , "We are planning to build up fresh water resources and cultivate some fruit trees, such as banana trees, sugar cane trees and tamarind trees so the monkeys can eat, and there will be a sustainable solution."
While these monkeys are looking for food, animal rights activists are angry over Boston's Charles River Laboratories' plan to fatten up and sell obese monkeys for medical research .
Posted on: Friday, 23 October, 2009 05:59
Updated on: Friday, 23 October, 2009 06:06
Expires on: Sunday, 31 January, 2010 04:59
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Welltamed Chimpanzee and Capuchin Monkeys Available
We have a baby/Adult chimpanzee and Primate/Adult Capuchin Monkeysin our Farm available for adoption,This babies are already house trained and well socialized, They vet checked and potty trained, diaper and crate trained .Males and females chimpanzee and Capuchin ready for a loving home. loves the presence of kids and other household pets ,comes alongside all vet papers, toys, sample foods and a very large crate. If interested and ready to give this babies the kind of home we are looking for, get back to us for more information
Saima is a female young orangutan that had been taken as baby from her mother and brought from Central Kalimantan to spend four years in a small cage in Cibubur area, Java, as a pet.
If you wish to help the orangutans at Ibu Ulla or Saima please do contact us by email.
Debby Rose may have to make some changes in her lifestyle.
Joy Robertson brought you Rose's story in a 'Personal Portrait' just over a year ago.
Rose was upset about a letter from the Springfield Greene County Health Department, barring her from bringing her service monkey Richard into establishments that serve food.
In turn she filed suit against the Department, Wal-Mart and Cox Health Systems alleging discrimination.
She claims Richard helps her cope with her anxiety disorder.
But yesterday U.S. District Court Judge Richard Dorr ruled that the monkey does not qualify as a service animal, rather he gives Rose comfort as a pet.
He adds that Rose lived with her disorder for several years with no medication or service animal, and that her condition doesn't qualify as a disability under the ADA.
Rose could not be reached for comment.
Source and Video
Thursday, October 22, 2009
New evidence of culture in wild chimpanzees
A new study of chimpanzees living in the wild adds to evidence that our closest primate relatives have cultural differences, too. The study, reported online on October 22nd in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, shows that neighboring chimpanzee populations in Uganda use different tools to solve a novel problem: extracting honey trapped within a fallen log.
Kibale Forest chimpanzees use sticks to get at the honey, whereas Budongo Forest chimpanzees rely on leaf sponges—absorbent wedges that they make out of chewed leaves.
"The most reasonable explanation for this difference in tool use was that chimpanzees resorted to preexisting cultural knowledge in trying to solve the novel task," said Klaus Zuberbühler of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. "Culture, in other words, helped them in dealing with a novel problem."
"Culture" in this sense refers to a population-specific set of behaviors acquired through social learning, such as imitation, Zuberbühler explained. That's in contrast to an animal or human learning something on his or her own through trial and error, without taking into account what others around them do, or behaviors that are "hard-wired" and require no learning at all.
Behavioral differences among animal populations have been taken as evidence of culture, the researchers said, but it's a notion that has remained controversial. Some think that other explanations—differences in the environment or in genetics—seem more likely.
Perhaps the strongest evidence for animal culture has come from studies on wild chimpanzees in Africa, Zuberbühler said. For instance, 15 years of field observation has shown that Kibale chimps habitually use sticks as tools, whereas Budongo chimps never do. Both groups make use of leaf sponges to access water from tree holes.
The question is, are those differences really cultural? That's been a hard question to answer because scientists couldn't rule out all of the possible ecological or genetic explanations for those behavioral differences. Scientists have seen social transmission of behaviors among chimpanzees living in captivity, with good evidence that the chimps can socially learn arbitrary behavior. It still wasn't clear whether those findings were relevant to chimps in the wild.
To help get around earlier limitations in the new study, Zuberbühler and his colleague Thibaud Gruber presented the two well-known chimpanzee groups with something that they hadn't seen before, in this case, honey trapped inside a narrow hole drilled into a log.
"With our experiment we were able to rule out that the observed differences in chimpanzee tool use behavior are the result of genetic differences because we tested members of the same subspecies," Zuberbühler said. They also ruled out habitat influences by exposing the chimps to the same unfamiliar problem.
Zuberbühler said that they were surprised by how quickly the animals found their respective solutions. "The cultural differences, in other words, must be deeply entrenched in their minds," he said.
The researchers include Thibaud Gruber, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK, Budongo Conservation Field Station, Masindi, Uganda; Martin N. Muller, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, Kibale Chimpanzee Project, Fort Portal, Uganda; Pontus Strimling, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK; Richard Wrangham, Kibale Chimpanzee Project, Fort Portal, Uganda, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; and Klaus Zuberbuhler, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK, Budongo Conservation Field Station, Masindi, Uganda.
In turn, Dorr approved an effort by the health department, the hospital and Walmart to make a summary judgement denying Rose’s claims.
Rose originally filed the case in Greene County Circuit Court seeking fair and reasonable damages, compliance with the ADA and expenses related to the lawsuit.
In a ruling made Wednesday in Springfield federal court, the judge also rejected Roses’ claims she is disabled under the federal act.
In comments about Rose’s claim the monkey is a service animal, the judge said Richard’s activities did not deal with any disabilities Rose might have.
Instead, the monkey offered Rose comfort as a pet, the judge ruled.
The judge also rejected Rose’s claim she is disabled.
In her lawsuit, Rose claimed Richard is a service animal because he helps her deal with agoraphobia and anxiety disorder.
But the judge ruled that although Rose claimed to suffer from the disorders since the 1970s, she married three times, had children and worked at a variety of jobs and was not diagnosed until 2006.
The judge also ruled that the health department acted properly in refusing to recognize Richard as a service animal and by notifying Greene County businesses that they faced being in violation of state food codes if they allowed Richard in their businesses.
Walmart refused to allow Rose in stores after receiving the letter, while CoxHealth determined that allowing a monkey into its facilities posed a possible health threat.
by Thom Morris
Baby gorilla Louna has been reunited with his mum after being released from intensive care.
The male infant had fallen ill with a severe case of gastroenteritis that left him semi-collapsed from dehydration.
Although vital for his recovery, Louna’s eight-day removal from the social group at Port Lympne animal park near Hythe for treatment meant that he risked rejection from his mother on his return.
Howletts and Port Lympne veterinary surgeon Jane Hopper said: “Reintroducing an infant to a mother after a period of separation as long as eight days is very difficult and not always successful. It requires patience and commitment on the part of the keepers, and a good maternal instinct on the part of the mother.”
Despite teenage mum FouFou, 17, initially lacking interest in her infant in the afternoon she eventually began to show some maternal affection at 4am.
Firmly settled back into his family group Louna’s appetite has returned and he is back to his normal playful self just in time for his birthday on Friday.
Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) have launched a fundraising drive to help make a better home for the zoo’s gorilla family and have asked the public to get behind its campaign.
The zoo is home to Harry, a large male silverback (23), breeding female Lena (27), Kesho (10), Mayani (7), Alf (6) and Evinidi (3).
The animals, an endangered species, hail from the lowland areas of west Africa.
John Carmody of ARAN explained how he and another member of the network recently visited the zoo to see first hand the conditions of the gorilla family. He said this was on foot of numerous concerns expressed to his organisation by members of the public.
“The enclosure is very small given the sheer size of these majestic animals,” Mr Carmody believed.
“There is very little to entertain and stimulate them apart from a piece of material that hangs from the ceiling.
“These animals are incredibly intelligent and they need some stimulation.
“On our visit the silverback Harry appeared to be very detached and spent over 20 minutes simply staring at a wall.
“The outside part of their area just has grass for them and one rope when these animals need something more resembling the environment they would inhabit if in the wild.
“It’s agreed that nothing will compare to their homes in Rwanda and the Congo. In the wild, these animals react to their surroundings. They avoid predators, seek food and interact with others of their species - doing what they have evolved for.
“In contrast, we believe these enclosures have only caused the gorillas to become frustrated and bored which is evident from their obsessive and repetitive behaviour.”
According to Dublin Zoo’s own website, “gorillas spend their days at quite a leisurely pace, eating, resting and playing”.
Mr Carmody stressed that ARAN is realistic in its expectations for the future of the gorillas.
“We know these animals won’t be set free but the very least we can do is to try to raise money to improve their conditions,” he said.
“We have tried to discuss our campaign with the zoo but they won’t speak to us. We’ll continue our drive for money regardless because improving the conditions for the gorilla needs to be a priority.
“Just think of what good could be done if every visitor put e2 into a box.”
Rita Marie Lawlor, campaign coordinator with ARAN, added: “We can’t wait any longer - these animals are desperate and we’re calling on the public to get behind our campaign to get these gorillas an enclosure they so desperately deserve.”
When contacted, Dublin Zoo declined to comment on the issues raised by ARAN. However, they did extend an invitation for a reporter from this newspaper to visit the zoo. We were not in a position to do so due to deadline constraints.
The Toledo Zoo says Elaine, a 42-year-old female gorilla, died Tuesday, a few days after her keepers noticed a loss of appetite followed by other symptoms including an intermittent dry cough, trembling and labored breathing.
The zoo said in a release Wednesday that a necropsy showed abnormalities in the animal's adrenal glands, kidneys and lungs.
It was just last weekend that the zoo reported the death of 49-year-old Fifi, one of the oldest female chimpanzees housed at a North American zoo.
Toledo Zoo officials point out that at 42, Elaine had lived far beyond the 31-year life expectancy for a gorilla in a zoo setting.
Here's the Topeka Zoo's official response to the most-recent USDA inspection:
"The Topeka Zoo has received a report by the USDA following a September 28 follow-up inspection of the zoo. The original inspection was on August 12, 2009.
The Zoo has also received a final report from the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine following their review of the four medical cases noted in the first USDA report. The Topeka Zoo plans to contract with the veterinarian school to do ongoing consulting work.
The latest USDA report focused on five animal deaths, all of which occurred prior to 2009, and an incident involving two orangutans that resulted in an injury.
Additional Information Regarding Animal Deaths Cited in the USDA Follow-up Inspection Report
Pallas Cat: Zoo staff had noticed a decline in the cat over an eight day period. While staff noted behavioral and appetite changes during that period the reason for the changes were not diagnosed and the cat died in July 2008. He was 6 years old. The life expectancy of the animal is 8-12 years.
Domestic Rabbit: The animal was found to have a severe maggot infestation and as a result was in failing health. While the exact reason for the maggot infestation isn't known, it is possible a fly strike, when flies attack and lay eggs at a specific site on an animal, had occurred. The animal died in July 2007. It was 6 years old. The life expectancy of the animal is 5-10 years.
North American Pronghorn Antelope: The animal was under treatment for a gastric ulcer since early July 2008. It was restricted to the barn outside the holding pens. At night, the animal was allowed to spend time with other pronghorn antelope in the outside yard. The animal died in July 2008. He was 6 years old. The life expectancy of the animal is 9-12 years.
Large Malayan Chevrotain: The Zoo's Chevrotain (mouse deer) had an eye removed on Sept. 11 at Kansas State University. Following the procedure, the chevrotain was returned to the Zoo and was under veterinarian supportive care. The animal eventually returned to its home in the Tropical Rain Forest. The animal was found chilled in the Tropical Rain Forest and was taken to the Animal Health Center on the Zoo property for treatment. It died on Sept. 16, 2007. It was 12 years old. The life expectancy of the animal is 12-16 years.
Giant Indian Fruit Bats (Indian Flying Foxes): In December 2006 and January 2007, three fruit bats died in the Tropical Rain Forest after falling into a pool with an alligator. Giant Indian Fruit Bats are in free flight in the building and have been since the mid 1970's. After the January 2007 incident, the animals were separated.
Animal Injury Cited
The report also listed an injury to a female orangutan. The injury occurred when a female orangutan and a male orangutan, known to be incompatible, were mistakenly put together during a transfer procedure. The incident occurred on August 31, 2009, and was immediately reported to the USDA. Established transfer procedures, which were in place since 2006, were not followed at that time.
The Topeka Zoo staff has stepped up its daily observations and care of the collection. Animals are rigorously monitored and complete information recorded in the Daily Animal reports (DARs). More complete documentation is also being made in medical records and an electronic system to monitor the expiration dates of medicines has been established.
Processes and procedures have also been reviewed with staff to ensure the safety of the collection and training or retraining opportunities are taken as they arise. This includes staff review of the handling of orangutans during transfers.
The Topeka Zoo is dedicated to providing the highest quality of care possible for it animals and a safe, educational environment for its visitors. The Zoo has also always had a practice of timely reporting to the USDA all significant changes to programming, including additions, removals and transfers, which affect the animal collection. We appreciate collaboration with the USDA to ensure the safety and well-being of the animals and staff."
Cinta, a baby orangutan found lost and alone in a vast Borneo palm oil plantation, now clings to a tree at a sanctuary for the great apes, staring intently at dozens of tourists.
She is one of the casualties of the boom in palm oil - used extensively for biofuel and processed food like margarine - which has seen swathes of jungle felled in Borneo, an island split between Malaysia and Indonesia.
There are about 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 80% of them in Indonesia and the rest in Malaysia's Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak. A 2007 assessment by the United Nations Environment Program warned that the charismatic red-haired apes will be virtually eliminated in the wild within two decades if current deforestation trends continue.
Stung by criticism of its environmental record, Malaysian palm oil industry officials pledged at a conference earlier this month to fund the establishment of wildlife corridors that experts say could help save the species.
"The major issue we face with orangutans today is what we called the fragmented population," said Marc Ancrenaz from the environmental group Hutan. "True enough there are 11,000 orangutans in (Sabah) but they are split up in many small populations, and many of these populations are not connected any more," he told the conference near Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah.
An aerial survey carried out by Hutan and wildlife authorities in eastern Sabah last year revealed some 1,000 orangutan treetop "nests" located in 100 small patches of forest completely surrounded by palm oil plantations.
Isolated from each other, the tiny communities are at risk of inbreeding and also of simply becoming lost in the vastness of the plantations - just like three-year-old Cinta and the five other young apes at the Tuaran sanctuary. After becoming separated from their mothers, they were rescued from certain death and sent to the forested reserve, situated near a string of luxury beachside resorts north of Kota Kinabalu.
As well as destroying their jungle habitat, the expansion of palm oil, which now covers nearly one fifth of Sabah alone, poses other risks to the endangered species. Orangutans that damage the palm oil fruits can be hunted down and killed, and it is quite common for young apes to be captured and kept as pets by villagers living alongside the plantations.
"They either go into the oil palm, and start eating the oil palm fruits, or get pushed into a smaller and smaller area," said Eric Meijaard from the Indonesia-based People and Nature Consulting International.
"What quite often happens is that the oil palm concession basically will ask for these orangutans to be shot so they get rid of the problem."
Malaysia is the world's second-largest exporter of palm oil after Indonesia, and the industry is the country's third largest export earner, raking in 65.2 billion ringgit (US$19 billion) last year.
Elements in the industry have accused Western lobby groups of trying to smear palm oil in order to boost rival products from developed countries.
Bernard Dompok, the plantation industry and commodities minister, appeared at the conference to completely reject claims that palm oil is responsible for deforestation and the displacement of endangered species. "I wish to stress that all these allegations are unjustified," he said, insisting Malaysia has taken a comprehensive approach to balance conservation with the development of palm oil.
Representatives from the top industry body, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), said they should not be held accountable for the dwindling orangutan population. Its chief executive officer Yusof Basiron said that if the world stopped using palm oil, biodiversity would suffer further because substitutes like rapeseed and soyabean would require more land to be cleared. "We can take some of the blame, but not all of it," he said.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Laurentius Ambu said that wildlife corridors, which would enable orangutans to move across the landscape, are vital if the apes are to co-exist with palm oil. "There is an urgent need to reconnect all forests through corridors... and to reconnect orangutan populations that are isolated by palm oil fields," he said.
The MPOC pledged to help to fund the corridors, but as there is no binding commitment, and no clarity on how the ambitious project would be funded overall, many environmentalists are sceptical.
Ancrenaz said there is no way to stop the spread of palm oil, which environmentalists say is found in one in 10 products on supermarket shelves, including bread, crisps and cereals as well as lipstick and soap. "Oil palm is here to stay. There is no point in fighting against development, but we also want orangutans to stay," he said.Follow Cosmos on Twitter! twitter.com/cosmosmagazine
"As a member of the state government I say to you the state government is completely dependent on palm oil, yes, but the future generations are also dependent on the [oil palm] planters to ensure that they inherit a world much better than what we were given," he said to a conference room filled with conservationists, primatologists, government officials, and representatives of the palm oil industry.
While Masidi said that the palm oil industry is "not solely to be blamed", he added that they are "one of the culprits".
Photo by: Jeremy Hance.
"I myself have had a couple of sessions with the planters. They promised to do this and do that, but suddenly it's clear to me it's all been lip-service […] I went into the plantations myself to check and I know some of the mills have not done their job by letting pollutants out into the river."
A study by the Department of Environment found that twenty-nine oil palm mills on Sabah's Kinabatangan River were dumping pollution into the river. The river ecosystem is home to orangutans, Bornean pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, the storm's stork, and many other species. Fifty years ago the Kinabatangan River was clear. Today, after decades of clear-cut logging and then the palm oil industry, it is coffee-colored.
"It doesn't cost much money. With all the profit that we are taking from the soil, I think that it doesn't really hurt the company to spend a bit of money […] to make sure that we don't pollute the river," Masidi said. "I mean 'who are we'? I am throwing you this question because this is a very, very important question to ask. […] If we can't even control pollution in the river then obviously something is wrong with us. Yes, we can take all the profit, all the money we want, but after that what will we do?"
Masidi expressed his view that he didn't want to enforce compliance through state and federal law.
By virtue of its high yield, palm oil is a cheaper substitute than other vegetable oils. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
"I would rather believe that planters are responsible enough to self regulate, self police. Why? Because, all of us are relations. Why? Because we are human beings and only human being can really put aside their emotion, their need to take more, to leave aside something for the future generations to enjoy."
He warned that a time would come when pressure from abroad would force change on oil palm plantations and that "it makes sense" to beginning complying with progressive requirements now, such as those laid out by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
"There are planters who already comply," Masidi added. "And that shows it can be done. It can be done. You can make money and at the same time be socially responsible. It can be done."
Masidi said the same attitude of socially responsibility should be brought to the issue of orangutan conservation: "let's be magnamimous to the orangutan, they may be the man of the forest, and we are man of the town, but we are all 'orangs'."
Sabah's orangutan population has declined by approximately half in fifty years, from an estimated 22,000 to 11,000. In addition, sixty-five percent of Sabah's orangutans live outside of protected areas. Masidi did not back away from saying that this widespread decline was due in part to the rise of palm oil plantations over land that once held forest.
Male orangutan feeding on fruit tree overlooking the Kinabatangan River. Photo by: Jeremy Hance.
In order to save orangutans—and other species—Masidi urged the palm oil industry and government to work willingly with local and international NGOs present at the meeting. Both sides are wary of each other. Many in the palm oil industry feel they have been unfairly singled out by environmental NGOs for deforestation and species loss. While the conservation community is frustrated by the palm oil industry consistently attempting to paint itself as 'sustainable', while not following through on environmental promises.
"To me, personally, I enjoy working with NGOs,” Masidi expounded. "I urge all departments, government bodies, not to treat NGOs as enemies but rather as friends who give you council from time to time. I think we need to tell ourselves that we are not exactly the experts on everything that we think we know. […] And I urge all of you not to be too defensive of what they [the NGOs] are going to say over the next few days, but in fact to take their words quite seriously, and ask ourselves are we moving in the right direction to conserve the orangutan?"
In the end Masidi urged the colloquium that it was time to put aside past differences and work together to create a society that would conserve rivers and wildlife.
The Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment concluded his speech: "The message is clear. Time is now. Get things done. Enough of talking," and then he added, "after we talk for the next two days, of course."
Following two days of intensive meetings between conservationists, the palm industry, and government officials, the colloquium adopted a resolution which included the acquisition of land for creating wildlife corridors of at least 100 meters along all major rivers and to connect fragmented forests. The resolution was handed off to Masidi on the last day. He promised to move quickly on it .
Orphaned orangutan at Sepilok near the Kinabatangan River.
Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.