Site update

Since I have been really terrible at updating the blog (but pretty good at keeping up with the facebook blog posts) I've added the widget below so that facebook cross posts to the blog.

You shouldn't need to join facebook but can just click on the links in the widget to access the articles. If you have any problems or comments please mail me at arandjel 'AT'

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNApes EXCLUSIVE!: Two Videos from the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project

The Goualougo Triangle Ape Project (GTAP) is run by Drs. Crickette Sanz and David Morgan and was initiated in an area known as the Goualougo Triangle, which is located in the Sangha region of the northern Republic of Congo. Since the project’s inception in 1999, GTAP has maintained a continuous scientific and conservation presence in the 385 km² study area.

The main goals of GTAP are to enhance our knowledge of the central subspecies of chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and improve the conservation status of this ape throughout central Africa. Although the chimpanzee is a flagship conservation species that has been studied for several decades in eastern and western Africa, very little is known about the central subspecies residing in the Congo Basin.

As a component of their ongoing research and monitoring program, they are also examining the effects of mechanized logging and associated activities on chimpanzees and gorillas. The study area has been subdivided into zones with regard to the Ndoki-Nouabalé boundary, past and future scheduled timber extraction in adjacent regions, and geographical features such as waterways. This unique scenario has the potential to provide new insights to anthropogenic influences on chimpanzee behavior and ecology, and also indicates the rapidly changing context of primatological research and its intersection with conservation efforts in habitat countries.

The Goualougo triangle was also featured in National Geographic magazine in 2003 when Jane Goodall visited the area after a 10 year absence from the forest. The entire story can be read online at

Dave and Crickette have kindly allowed me to post the following two videos, created by up and coming film maker Adrian Melnyk, on the DNApes blog. Enjoy!

The first video "Remote Video Monitoring of Fruiting Trees in the Ndoki Forest" demonstrates the utility of camera traps for documenting the diversity of wildlife in areas without the need for more time consuming or disruptive practices.

CLICK HERE to download a high quality version of this video.

The second video "Chimpanzee Tool Technology in the Ndoki Forest" highlights the main tool using behaviours of the chimpanzees in the Goualougo study area, some never documented at other long-term chimpanzee study sites.

CLICK HERE to download a high quality version of this video

For more information on GTAP visit

Monday, August 11, 2008

From the Wildlife Conservation Society: New Census Shows Massive Gorilla Population in Northern Republic of Congo

Photo by Josephine Head

This is great news for gorillas—new figures double all previous estimates

NEW YORK (AUGUST 5, 2008) – The world’s population of critically endangered western lowland gorillas received a huge boost today when the Wildlife Conservation Society released a census showing massive numbers of these secretive great apes alive and well in the Republic of Congo.
The new census tallied more than 125,000 western gorillas in two adjacent areas in the northern part of the country, covering an area of 18,000 square miles (47,000 square kilometers). Previous estimates from the 1980s placed the entire population of western lowland gorillas, which occur in seven Central African nations, at fewer than 100,000. Since then, however, scientists had believed that this number had dwindled by at least half, due to hunting and disease.
The census data were released at a press conference at the International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. The WCS scientists who worked on the census include Fiona Maisels, Richard Malonga, Hugo Rainey, Emma Stokes, and Samantha Strindberg.
The new census was the result of intensive fieldwork carried out by the Bronx Zoo-based WCS and the Government of Republic of Congo. The researchers combed rainforests and isolated swamps to count gorilla “nests” to accurately estimate the population. Gorillas construct nests each night from leaves and branches for sleeping. Population densities ranged as high as eight individuals per square kilometer in one particularly rich forest patch, which ranks as among the highest gorilla density ever recorded.
WCS says a combination of factors account for such high numbers of gorillas, including successful long-term management of the Republic of Congo’s protected areas; remoteness and inaccessibility of some of the key locations where the gorillas were found; and a habitat where there is plenty to eat, particularly in some of the swamp forests and the “Marantaceae” forests, which are rich in herbs.
WCS has worked with the Government of Republic of Congo in the northern area of the country for nearly 20 years, helping to establish the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park and manage the Lac Télé Community Reserve, while working with logging companies outside of protected areas to reduce illegal hunting.
“These figures show that northern Republic of Congo contains the mother lode of gorillas,” said Dr. Steven E, Sanderson, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “It also shows that conservation in the Republic of Congo is working. This discovery should be a rallying cry for the world that we can protect other vulnerable and endangered species, whether they be gorillas in Africa, tigers in India, or lemurs in Madagascar.”
The tally of northern Congo’s gorillas incorporates 73,000 found in the Ntokou-Pikounda region and 52,000 from the Ndoki-Likouala landscape, where a previously unknown population of nearly 6,000 gorillas was discovered in an isolated raffia swamp. WCS cautioned that many of the gorillas live outside of existing protected areas, though the Government of Congo has committed to creating a new national park in the Ntokou-Pikounda region.
“We knew from our own observations that there were a lot of gorillas out there, but we had no idea there were so many,” said Dr. Emma Stokes, who led the survey efforts in Ndoki-Likouala. “We hope that the results of this survey will allow us to work with the Congolese government to establish and protect the new Ntokou-Pikounda protected area.”
Mr. Claude Etienne Massimba of the Government of Republic of Congo’s Department of Wildlife and Protected Areas said, “We hope that these results will speed up the classification of the Ntokou-Pikounda zone into a protected area.”
Across Central Africa, gorillas face the looming threats of hunting for bushmeat and the spread of the Ebola virus, which is lethal to gorillas as well as humans. WCS is working with partners to combat Ebola, eliminate commercial hunting, and secure this last stronghold for Africa’s apes.
Many gorilla conservation projects are funded through two primary programs of the federal government—the Congo Basin Forest Partnership at the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Great Apes Conservation Fund at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Both of these programs are at risk of being cut in the Fiscal Year 2009 federal budget. Although the budget process in Washington has stalled, WCS is calling for Congress to restore and grow these programs by completing work on the Fiscal Year 2009 budget before the end of September.
Western lowland gorillas are one of four recognized gorilla subspecies, which also include mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas, and Cross River gorillas. All are classified as “critically endangered” by the IUCN, except eastern lowland gorillas, which are endangered. The Wildlife Conservation Society is the only conservation group working to safeguard all four subspecies. WCS’s conservation work in Central Africa was funded in part from admission fees to the Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit, which has raised more than $8.5 million for conservation in Central Africa since the opening in 1999.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lab chimps show same stress symptoms as tortured humans

Photo: © Michael Nichols. From Brutal Kinship (Aperture)

(Note: If you haven't already please sign the Manifesto for Apes & Nature (MAN) at:

By Jeremy Watson
CHIMPANZEES subjected to laboratory experiments suffer similar levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as humans who have been tortured, according to a new study.

The study, which will be presented to a scientific conference in Edinburgh tomorrow, will fuel calls for a Europe-wide ban on the use of primates in medical and pharmaceutical trials.

An assessment of the behaviour of 116 chimps involved in animal research found that 95% displayed at least one of the distinctive patterns of behaviour that humans show when suffering from PTSD.

Now living in a primate sanctuary in the US, the chimps showed symptoms of depression, anxiety and compulsive behaviours not observed in wild populations.

The study was carried out by American physician Hope Ferdowsian, who will deliver the findings to an international primate conference at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Ferdowsian, who has evaluated the mental condition of human torture victims, said: "The high prevalence of mental disorders we observed in these chimpanzees offers a new reason to support proposals to stop using great apes in laboratory experiments.

"We now know that a chimpanzee's mind and emotional well-being are affected by experimentation in ways that parallel the psychological trauma experienced by victims of torture and other forms of abuse."

Experimentation on chimpanzees is still allowed in the US, although there is a ban already in place in the UK.

But Ferdowsian, director of research policy at the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, insisted that the findings would apply to all primates, including monkeys.

Around 3,000 monkeys are still used for scientific trials – mainly for research into human diseases such as Parkinson's, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, HIV and strokes – every year in the UK because of similarities in brain physiology.

Last year, more than 800 monkeys died in laboratory experiments in Scottish research centres.

Around Europe, 10,000 primates are used in experiments every year but some members of the European Parliament are pressing for a ban.

One supporter of a ban is Scottish MEP David Martin, who called for the development of alternatives.

"It is the failure to develop and validate modern non-animal tests that perpetuates the reliance on out-dated animal experimentation, and when these procedures are carried out on our closest animal relatives, people are rightly appalled," he said.

A spokesman for the campaign group Advocates for Animals said: "There is huge political and public support for a European ban on the use of great apes and Dr Ferdowsian's research makes an already strong case unanswerable."