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Monday, January 31, 2011

A mother's grief: The startling images which show how chimpanzees mourn their dead just like humans


Grieving process: A chimpanzee mother tenderly lays her dead 16-month-old infant on the ground after carrying the body for more than 24 hours. Scientists filmed this heartbreaking footage in Chimfunshi, Zambia

Chimpanzees appear to mourn their dead infants just like humans, scientists have discovered.

Chimpanzee mothers establish close physical relationships with their young, carrying them for up to two years and nursing them until they are six.

But now scientists have filmed how one chimpanzee mother, whose 16-month-old infant died, apparently begins the grieving process.

It’s the latest evidence highlighting just how similar chimps and other great apes are to humans.

The ape continued to carry the body for more than 24 hours before tenderly laying on the ground. Then from a short distance she watched over her child.

Periodically she returns to the body and touches the face and neck with her fingers to establish it was dead.

She then took the body to other chimpanzees in the troop to get a second opinion. The following day the chimp had abandoned the body, according to a report by scientists from the respected Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

Dr Cronin said the research provided 'unique insights into how chimpanzees, one of humans' closest primate relatives, learn about death'.

Dr Katherine Cronin and Edwin Van Leeuwen together with Prof Mark Bodamer, of Gonzaga University in Washington State, and Innocent Chitalu Mulenga videoed the chimpanzee in Chimfunshi, Zambia.

Devastated: Struggling to take in the news, the mother then moves to a nearby grass bank and watches over the body of her dead child

Dr Cronin said the research provided 'unique insights into how chimpanzees, one of humans' closest primate relatives, learn about death'.

She said: 'After carrying the infant's dead body for more than a day, the mother laid the body out on the ground in a clearing and repeatedly approached the body and held her fingers against the infant's face and neck for multiple seconds.

'She remained near the body for nearly an hour, then carried it over to a group of chimpanzees and watched them investigate the body. The next day, the mother was no longer carrying the body of the infant.'

The report, published in the American Journal of Primatology, said almost nothing is known about how primates react to death of close individuals, what they understand about death, and whether they mourn.

The researchers therefore believe they have reported a unique transitional period as the mother learned about the death of her infant, a process never before reported in detail.

Second opinion: The mother then invites other chimpanzees over to the body, touching the face and neck with her fingers to confirm it is dead

'The videos are extremely valuable, because they force one to stop and think about what might be happening in the minds of other primates,' Dr Cronin said.

'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.'

Previous reports have documented chimpanzee mothers carrying their deceased young for days or weeks, showing the strength of the mother-infant bond.
The latest research complements these observations and sheds new light on how chimpanzees might learn about death.

Professor Bodamer said: 'These data contribute to a small but growing body of data on how non-human primates respond to death.

'We hope these objective accounts will continue to accumulate and eventually allow researchers to take a comprehensive look at the extent to which non-human primate understand death, and how they respond to it.

'It was only a matter of time, and the right conditions, that chimpanzees' response to death would be recorded and subjected to analysis that would reveal remarkable similarities to humans.'

Chimps are human’s closest relatives in the wild. Like people they can use tools, using sticks to fish out termites, hunt in teams and plan ahead.

They are also one of the few animals that can recognise themselves in a mirror - and realise that they are looking at a reflection.

Chimpanzee mother learns about her dead infant

source: dailymail

Bird of pray: Meet the most vocal member of St Mary's flock... a tame robin who has made the church his home


Feathered friend of God: This tame Robin has made a church in Portsmouth his home and is one of the most vocal members of the congregation

Chirping along with the choir from the church rafters, this tame Robin has become a surprise and very welcome addition to a historic church's flock.

The feathered parishioner is one of the nosiest members of the congregation and plays a very vocal part in Sunday services, weddings and funerals.

Reverend Charlie Allen, 31, is delighted with her new red-breasted friend whose vocal contributions to sermons and hymns are easily audible.

Rev Allen said: 'This robin is just so wonderfully tame - and also wonderfully noisy.

'If there is a service going on in the church he will be right in the middle making as much racket as he can'

The vicar first spotted the bird inside St Mary's Church at Portchester Castle, Hampshire, when there was a heavy snowfall last month.

Since then the chirpy chappy has made the 12th Century Anglican church overlooking Portsmouth Harbour its home and has received considerable attention from the other parishioners.

Not only does the friendly male bird enjoy seeds and water left out for it by the vicar, but he is even treated to crumbs of cake by people who are visiting specifically to take its picture.

The vicar said: ''We have put bird seed and water out for him at the back of the church and the children like to feed him after Sunday service.

A welcome addition: Reverend Charlie Allen is delighted with her newest parishioner and doesn't mind cleaning up after the bird. The robin is treated to seeds, water and crumbs of cake by members of the congregation

'Some visitors have been coming into the church after visiting the nearby tea rooms with little bits of cake.

Rev Allen has also revealed how the robin makes a delightful contribution to service with his 'beautiful birdsong'.

She added: 'the church has very good acoustics so he is always heard.'
'He is generally very nosey. He really likes to get amongst things and some days he goes to sit with the choir.

'The regular congregation are all quite at ease with him flying around during a service.

'For weddings it has been very touching and poignant to have him with us. Sometimes I think more pictures are taken of him than anyone else.

'And even at funerals he has lightened the atmosphere.'
Rev Allen added: 'I don't know a lot about birds but I have been astonished just how tame he is.

'He eats out of people's hands and visitors to the church are delighted.

'He moved in when we had a cold snap. He will occasionally fly outside but if he comes back to find the door closed, he'll wait by it to be let back in again.

But while the bird has become a welcome addition to the church, the Reverend does have to tidy up after the little fellow, but she doesn't mind.

She said: 'He's a pleasure to have around and we don't mind clearing up after him,' adding:'He has become quite a fixture.'

SOURCE: dailymail

A shaggy dog story with a happy ending: Poodle goes walkabout for two years before being re-united with desperate owner


Happy ending: Archie the poodle was reunited with his owners, Chris and Julie Moran and their daughter Kelly after being missing for 549 days

A lost pet poodle has been reunited with his owners after being found 115 miles away from home over 18 months after he first disappeared.

Archie was found by a passer-by in Oxford and dog wardens used his microchip to track his owners down in Essex and reunite them with the prized pooch.

The toy poodle vanished in July 2009 leaving his owners Chris and Julia Moran devastated and fearing for his safety and days turned into weeks and then months they began to fear they would never see Archie again.

But miraculously 549 days later on Mrs Moran’s 47th Birthday the couple were told that Archie was alive and well over 100 miles away in Oxford.

She said: ‘It is the best birthday present I could ever have.’
‘When we heard the news, we thought we were in a dream, because when we lost him it was like being in limbo.’

The family were reunited with their precious pet on Sunday and Julia, Chris, 52, and 19-year-old Kelly were overjoyed to see Archie again and lavished him with plenty of attention.

Archie’s whereabouts for the 18-month period are a complete mystery to his owners who were tracked down by dog wardens after a passer-by found him alone in Oxford.

The two ft long dog had been microchipped which allowed the authorities to reunite the family with their beloved dog, who had gone missing from Mrs Moran’s sisters house as the family holidayed in France.

On hearing the news that the canine had disappeared from the garden in Heybridge, near Maldon the family sped back to England to search for their dog.

Although they searched for weeks they had no luck, before resigning themselves to the fact that Archie was most probably dead.

Although he was dirty when he was found he was not malnourished or injured which could suggest he had been looked after.

Mr Moran joked: We don't know how he ended up here. Maybe he came up to Oxford to study for a degree.’

source: dailymail

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Monkeying around: We tell the story of how Ambam the walking gorilla took his first steps to global fame


Standing out: Ambam strolls in his enclosure at Port Lympne this week

Tearing around in his nappy, draining his bottle of every last drop, he could be any other bouncy baby boy — but for the fact that he’s a little on the hairy side. And extremely strong. After all, how many infants have ripped the cat flap off the back door?

Yet, perhaps these enchanting family snaps provide vital clues to a story which has gripped the world in recent days — Ambam, the walking gorilla.

For here he is, 20 years ago, as a baby. And, as his adoptive mother discovered in a recent emotional reunion, the 34st titan still has very happy memories of his days as an honorary human.

Earlier this week, a film clip hit the internet showing Ambam walking round his home at Port Lympne Animal Park in Kent.

Since then, more than a million people have marvelled at this mighty silverback gorilla patrolling his enclosure like a ­proprietorial squire.

Ambam does not merely stand up like other apes do from time to time. He goes for a stroll. ‘British Gorilla Walks Like Man,’ declared Canada’s Montreal Gazette. Ambam is now big news from Malta to Adelaide.

Putting his feet up: Baby Ambam snatches 40 winks on Jo Wheatley's sofa, which he commandeered as his bed

Jo recalls that he learned to eat off plates and drink from a cup. Initially, he slept on the floor of the lounge with Colin beside him for comfort, before progressing to the sofa.

And he was walking even then. ‘From the outset he was a very unusual gorilla. He has always been adept at standing on his hind legs. He often preferred to be fed standing up, sucking on a bottle,’ says Jo.

It has been suggested that the reason Ambam walks like a Grenadier guardsman is that he is simply copying human beings.

Bouncing baby: Complete with nappy, a one-year-old Ambam is bottle fed by his doting 'mother' Jo

Jo explains that there are several other factors at work, quite apart from his life with her. After all, he is not the first ape to have been reared by humans.

‘He was different from other hand-reared primates because he already knew he was a gorilla when he came to live with us,’ she explains. ‘Not only that, but he also knew he was a very special gorilla because his mother and father were the dominant gorillas in their family group.

‘But the year he spent in our cottage must have had an effect on him — it made him an extra-special chap.’

Ambam even developed a fondness for ­television. ‘We showed him a video of himself hanging onto his mother soon after he was born and he was transfixed,’ recalls Jo, now a mother of two herself.

‘He would often sit down and watch ­television with us at night and learned how to turn it on and off himself.’

Look at me, Mum!: His first steps, with a little support from Jo

He was a genuine part of the family. The couple took him on days out to a local nature reserve in a baby sling and he enjoyed bicycle rides in a baby backpack.

Fellow shoppers were astonished when he accompanied them to the local supermarket.
But childcare arrangements could be tricky. ‘Like having a baby, caring for him was a 24/7 job,’ she recalls, ‘and he quickly started behaving like any human toddler.

On one occasion I was on my way out to work and Ambam didn’t want me to go. He chased after me crying as I went out the back door and ripped off the cat flap.’
Ambam was, at least, spared one or two of the more conventional baby rituals. ‘We didn’t put him in the bath,’ says Jo.

‘Gorillas don’t really like water, but if one of us was in the tub he would come and stand up on his hind legs alongside and splash and bat the water.’

Little monkey: Ambam loved to steal other people's food

Mealtimes were unusual, too. ‘He was always trying to steal what we were eating. It was often a nightmare. Like toddlers he also enjoyed play fighting, although his rough and tumble was much rougher.’

At the end of his year with Jo and Colin, Ambam was returned to Howletts before moving to its sister zoo, Port Lympne.

And last year, Jo took her children, Molly, 11, and Jonathan, eight, to see how he was getting on. It was the first time she had seen him in nearly 20 years. ‘Ambam sat very ­quietly at first, but then he came right over,’ says Jo.

‘When we went to walk away he started to call and cry, which is really unusual for an adult gorilla. It was an upset kind of cry. I’ve no doubt he recognised me. And I felt quite emotional, I felt so proud of him.’’

Garden games: Intimate and playful with his human family

source: dailymail

Friday, January 28, 2011

The lioness in a mess: Hunter caked in mud after chasing prey near waterhole


Mucky pup: One of the free lionesses poses on a mound after rolling around in the mud

These three lionesses got themselves in a mess after becoming stuck in the mud.
The trio got caught up in the muck at a partially dried up water hole after chasing their prey there.

But the three took it all in their stride and didn't even bother to move to harder ground before tucking in to their treat.

After satisfying their appetites the group emerged, their golden coats matted in a thick coat of mud.

The extraordinary sight was snapped by photographer Andy Biggs while on a photographic safari in the Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa.

The 41-year-old, from Houston, Texas, has been leading safaris for eight years but admitted he'd never seen anything like it.

Golden brown: After scoffing her prey one of the mucky lionesses trots up to higher ground to relax

Down and dirty: The three lionesses eat their catch in the mud

'We were on an afternoon game drive, and decided to stop by a water hole that is more commonly used by the resident elephant, rhino and giraffe population,' he said.
'We were surprised to find a group of three lions.

'They had trapped their kill in a muddy, dried up water hole, and began eating it right in front of us.

'One of them sat upright on a high perch, and I had never seen such a muddy lion before, or much less any predator with that much mud on it.'

He added: 'I enjoy witnessing and photographing unique moments in nature - this was one of the most unique shots I have ever taken.'

source: dailymail

A three-day old female baby Rotschild giraffe

A three-day old female baby Rotschild giraffe stands in front of her mother Kleopatra at the Prague Zoo on January 26, 2011 in the Czech capital.

A visitor feeds Berta, a female Rotschild giraffe, at the Prague Zoo on January 26, 2011 in the Czech capital.

A three-day old female baby Rotschild giraffe stands in her enclosure at the Prague Zoo on January 26, 2011 in the Czech capital.

A three-day old female baby Rotschild giraffe sits at the Prague Zoo on January 26, 2011 in the Czech capital.

source: daylife
photo: Gettyimages

An orangutan roams an enclosure in Ragunan zoo in Jakarta

An orangutan roams an enclosure in Ragunan zoo in Jakarta on January 27, 2011. Orangutans are far more genetically diverse than thought, a finding that could help their survival, say scientists delivering their full DNA analysis of the critically endangered ape. The study, published January 27 in the science journal Nature, also reveals that the orangutan -- 'the man of the forest' -- has hardly evolved over the past 15 million years, in sharp contrast to Homo sapiens and his closest cousin, the chimpanzee.

An orangutan holds her baby as she roams an enclosure in Ragunan zoo in Jakarta on January 27, 2011. .

An orangutan yawns from an enclosure in Ragunan zoo in Jakarta on January 27, 2011.

An orangutan sits in its an enclosure in Ragunan zoo in Jakarta on January 27, 2011.

Two orangutans roam an enclosure in Ragunan zoo in Jakarta on January 27, 2011.

An orangutan sits in its an enclosure in Ragunan zoo in Jakarta on January 27, 2011.

source: daylife
photo: Gettyimages

Culling of the crow: Predators will be destroyed in bid to save songbirds


Menace? Predators like the carrion crow are to be culled to halt the decline of songbird species

Scientists are to cull crows and magpies to find out whether they are wiping out the nation’s songbirds.

A dramatic decline in farm and woodland birds over the past 50 years has been linked to rising numbers of avian predators.

If the study finds a link, it could lead to a much wider cull extending to protected species such as sparrowhawks and buzzards.

Conservation charities are bitterly divided over the decline of some birds species.

Prey: The numbers of songbird species such as tree sparrow (left) and corn bunting have more than halved since 1970

Skylark and tree sparrow numbers have more than halved since 1970, while lesser spotted woodpeckers and willow tits are down by a quarter. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds blames changes in farming techniques, including more winter-sown crops, the destruction of hedgerows and the loss of wild flowers.

But Songbird Survival, which is funding the £88,000 cull, blames larger birds.
Between 2003 and 2008, farmland birds fell by 7 per cent, it said, despite billions of pounds being spent on farmland environmental schemes.

Killer: Sparrowhawks prey on 50 million songbirds a year but are a protected species so cannot be culled

Over the past 30 years, populations of species that kill songbirds have doubled. The number of sparrowhawks, which kill around 50million songbirds a year, has gone up 152 per cent, while magpies, which steal chicks and raid nests for eggs, have seen a rise of 98 per cent.

Nick Forde, of Songbird Survival, said: ‘There are lots of factors causing the decline in farmland birds, but to say it is only habitat loss and farming methods is misleading.

‘The environmental grants for farmers are turning farms into a paradise for songbirds, but they are also turning them into a paradise for predators.’ The two-year study, being carried out by the Game and Conservation Wildlife Trust, will select four pairs of farmland sites in England, Wales and Scotland.

Researchers will count songbirds, magpies and carrion crows in the spring and then cull the predators in half the sites.

The predators will be trapped using a cage that contains a live bird. Other magpies and crows will flock to the cage to see off the rival, only to become stuck inside. They will then be humanely destroyed.

‘The robin population has increased by 52 per cent since 1970, long-tailed tits have increased by 89 per cent and the great tit species by 90 per cent.’ Mr Forde said the RSPB was turning a blind eye to the threat of predator birds for fear of offending its membership.

‘They don’t want to alienate people who might think twice about leaving money to an organisation that culls certain species of birds,’ he said.
Landowners are allowed to humanely capture and kill magpies and

crows to protect game birds. However, killing a sparrowhawk is punishable by a £5,000 fine and up to six months in prison.

source: dailymail

Fox 'may have been prehistoric man's best friend'


Hunt: Man may use dogs to hunt foxes now, but the University of Cambridge research suggests early man kept foxes as pets thousands of years before their canine relatives

Early man may have preferred the fox as a pet rather than dogs, new findings suggest.
Researchers analysing remains at a prehistoric burial ground in Jordan have uncovered a grave in which a fox was buried with a human, dated thousands of years before dogs were kept as companions.

The University of Cambridge-led team believes that the unprecedented case - in which the remains of the animal and the man were then partially transferred to an adjacent grave - points to some kind of emotional link between human and fox.

Their research suggests that the fox may have been kept as a pet and was being buried to accompany its master, or mistress, to the afterlife.

If so, it marks the first known burial of its kind and suggests that long before man hunted foxes using dogs, our ancestors were keeping them as pets.

The cemetery, at Uyun-al-Hammam, in northern Jordan, is about 16,500 years old, which makes the grave 4,000 years older than the earliest known human-dog burial.

Pet: The research, published today, suggests the fox may have been kept as a pet and was being buried to accompany its master, or mistress, to the afterlife.

However, the close relationship between man and fox was probably short-lived.

Writing in the journal, PLoS One, published today, the researchers say it is unlikely foxes were ever fully domesticated and, despite their early head start, humans took to the more companionable dog for pets as time went on.

Studies carried out on foxes suggest that they can be brought under human control, but that the process is not easy because they are skittish and timid - so perhaps for that reason, the researchers suggest, dogs ultimately achieved 'best friend' status among humans instead.

Dr Lisa Maher, from the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, said: 'The burial site provides intriguing evidence of a relationship between humans and foxes which predates any comparable example of animal domestication.

'What we appear to have found is a case where a fox was killed and buried with its owner. Later, the grave was reopened for some reason and the human's body was moved.

'But because the link between the fox and human had been significant, the fox was moved as well, so that the person, or people, would still be accompanied by it in the afterlife.'

source: dailymail

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grief of the penguins: Scores of birds bowed in mourning after the deaths of their chicks


Mass mourning: Scores of Emperor penguins in an act of communal grief after the deaths of their chicks in Antarctica

Prostrate on the icy tundra of the Antarctic, they appear the picture of misery after the deaths of their chicks.

The extraordinary image capturing penguins in an act of mass mourning was taken on the Riiser Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica by photographer Daniel J. Cox.

He has spent 25 years travelling from pole to pole documenting everything from polar bears to penguins and getting up close and personal is all in a day's work.

'Part of my job is to accept that with the spectacular sights of nature also come the stark facts of life, and to see Emperor Penguins mourning in a human-like way over the death of their chicks is heart-wrenching,' he said.

'They hunch over like they are in a state of grief and they wander around the frozen ice wastes attempting to locate their chicks.

Distressing: The bodies of the chicks lie on the Riiser Larsen Ice Shelf

'It is difficult to say how and why they died, but I was told by other scientists that it was not unheard of.

'Weather and things like starvation, if there is a food shortage, can cause this kind of sad event.'

Up close and personal: An inquisitive polar bear shuffles right up to the camera at Hudson Bay, in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Camera man: Daniel Cox with a group of penguins and his camera equipment in Antarctic

But there have been many happier moments for the photographer, who has also spent a lot of time in Canada observing the wildlife there.

'One of my most pleasing pictures of the past quarter century has been to capture a female polar bear from just millimetres away,' he said.

'I travel from a base in Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, using a specially designed Tundra Buggy known as Buggy One, donated to the charity Polar Bears International by Frontiers North Adventures.

'It's specifically designed for PBI's work to capture still and moving images in the harsh environment of the Arctic.

'I was able to lower my camera through a hatch in the bottom of the Buggy One where we had come across a polar bear and her two cubs.

'The camera stirred her curiosity and while investigating she licked the lens and I had to spend the next twenty minutes cleaning off polar bear saliva.

'If you interrupt a polar bear in its natural environment just for the sake of an incredible never-seen-before photo you are running the risk of being attacked.

Baby bear: A polar cub climbs a tree near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

'And if you are attacked, that bear will have to be destroyed. That goes against everything that I believe in as a wildlife photographer.'

'The difference I have seen in the Arctic environment over the past two decades has been mind boggling,' said Daniel, 50, who lives in the town of Bozeman in the American state of Montana.

'Polar bears need to make their way onto the ice to feed and in 1987 the bears were able to return to the ice by mid November.

'That didn't happen until December 7 last year. That means that the bears are missing nearly an entire month without the opportunity to feed properly.

'Scientists estimate that the polar bear population in the Western area of Hudson Bay may be extinct within 30 years, or at the very least suffer a dramatic reduction.'

When two bears go to war: The huge creatures wrestled in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, as photographer Daniel Cox caught the moment on camera

source: dailymail

How humans are 97 % the same as orangutans: New research shows how DNA matches


Wild thing: A juvenile orangutan in its native Borneo. DNA testing shows that the ape shares 97 per cent of our DNA

Orangutans may be more closely related to humans than scientists previously thought, a new genetic study has shown.

The first blueprint of the orangutan genetic code has confirmed that they share 97 per cent of their DNA with people.

Although that makes the red-haired apes less closely related to us than chimps - who have 99 per cent of DNA in common - a small portion of orangutan DNA is a closer match to human DNA, the international team of researchers found.

The study is the first time scientists have cracked the genetic code of the endangered great apes.

Researchers hope their findings will aid efforts to protect the species from extinction.

Today, only about 50,000 Bornean and 7,000 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild. Their numbers have been dwindling as a result of deforestation.

The scientists first sequenced the genome of a female Sumatran orangutan named Suzie.

Using her DNA as a 'reference' they then compared the results with the DNA from another five Sumatran and five Bornean orangutans.

They recorded around 13 million DNA variations in the apes and found the two species split around 400,000 years ago - much more recently than previously thought.

Common traits: Orangutans in captivity can take on some typically human behavioural traits such as drawing

Humans are generally less related to orangutans than chimpanzees, the research showed.

Chimps and people shared a common ancestor around five to seven million years ago.

Our last common ancestor with orangutans is thought to have lived around 14 million years ago.

But a related study in the journal Genome Research revealed that some regions of orangutan DNA are a closer match to people than chimps.

Hope for the future: Scientists believe their DNA research will help the endangered orangutan avoid extinction

The study also found that the genetic make up of orangutans varies hugely from ape to ape.

This high level of 'genetic diversity' is important for conservation because it helps animals stay healthy and cope with changes in their environment.

Primatologist Dr Jeffrey Rogers, from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, U.S., who took part in the genome project, said: 'Their genetic variation is good news because, in the long run, it enables them to maintain a healthy population.'

But he added: 'If the forest disappears, then genetic variation won't matter. Habitat is of course absolutely essential.

'If things continue as they have for the next 30 years, we won't have orangutans left in the wild.'

source: dailymail

Ambam, the swaggering silverback gorilla who walks around his pen on two legs


A kind of man: Ambam has become an internet hit after teaching himself to swagger like a human

Striding purposefully across the ape enclosure, he looks like a portly – and slightly grumpy – commuter in a hurry to catch a train.

While most gorillas are happy enough walking around on all fours, Ambam the silverback prefers a more human form of ambulation.

To the amusement of his keepers and fascinated onlookers, the agile ape has mastered the tricky art of walking upright on his hind legs for long distances.

The feat has placed Ambam, a Western lowland gorilla at Port Lympne wild animal park in Kent, on the brink of international stardom.

An 18-second piece of footage showing the 21-year-old male walking like a man has become the latest YouTube sensation, viewed by 150,000 people over the last few days.

Gorillas usually prefer to get around by ‘knuckle walking’ – using the padded backs of their front hands to support their huge weights as they move around the floors of forests or zoo enclosures.

High and mighty: Ambam the gorilla stands up and strolls off...He sets off across his enclosure with purpose

However, they will also stand on two legs to reach branches or get a better view, and can walk upright, swinging their arms parallel to their opposite legs to counterbalance their weight.

But few gorillas are as good at it as Ambam. Keeper Ingrid Naisby, who has worked with him for 16 years, said: ‘It’s quite unusual in gorillas but Ambam does it quite often and he can balance very well. Other gorillas do it occasionally, but he will do it for a bit of a distance.

Long arms swinging he really gets into his stride...and a backward glance to see if anyone's following him

‘He’s always liked to stand up. It’s about getting his balance right and he’s well practised. He has perfected it.’ Ambam was born at Port Lympne’s sister park, Howletts, in 1990. He was moved to Port Lympne aged seven and is now the park’s largest gorilla at an impressive 34 stone. Standing upright, he is an impressive 6ft tall.

The footage of him was taken by animal researcher Johanna Watson while she was working for a project on great ape locomotion.

Hulk: Ambam is the park's biggest gorilla, weiging in at 220kg

source: dailymail

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What a difference three years makes: At last, a stable life for brave cruelty victim Disney the horse


Second chance: Disney the horse trots happily at Hampton Court after being rescued from Spindles Farm

Galloping through the grass, this magnificent horse is a picture of health and strength as he trains for his new job teaching youngsters to ride.

But it has taken three years of intensive care, love and rehabilitation to help five-year-old Disney reach this point after he was found crammed into a tiny pen, starving, infected with salmonella and barely able to stand.

Disney was one of 100 horses, ponies and donkeys rescued in 2008 from what were described as ‘Belsen-like’ conditions at Spindles Farm in Hyde Heath, Buckinghamshire.

Beneath his hooves were the bones and rotting flesh of other animals that had been left to die.

Showing him cold, miserable and close to death, his front-page picture in the Daily Mail prompted a flood of readers to contribute to an appeal to help the RSPCA and Horse Trust look after him. Today, all the surviving horses have new homes or are being cared for by animal charities.

Freedom: Hampton Court stable manager Theresa Barrett riding Disney at his new hom

For Disney, however, a brave new world beckons. Although he had never been ridden before, the blue and white roan is now stabled at Hampton Court, where Henry VIII once rode, and will teach youngsters about horsemanship with the Horse Rangers Association.

Nurturing: Theresa Barrett says Disney 'has a very gentle nature and absolutely no fear' despite his sad past

Settled: Disney is one of 100 horses rescued by the RSPCA and nursed back to health by the Horses Trust

Before his dramatic haircut, Disney’s long matted coat showed his dark grey spots clearly.

Now his close-cropped grooming regime means they are much less prominent, leaving him looking silvery white all over.

Stable manager Theresa Barrett described him as ‘a real sweetie’.

source: dailymail

Beach Babe: The happy pigs that love to swim in the Caribbean (and we're not telling porkies)


Splash and grab: This family of pigs were thought to have come to be in the Bahamas when some sailors dropped them off, thinking they would be a good food source... but the seamen never returned

These amazing pigs swim every day in the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas - on their own tiny island where they live in luxury.

They show off their piggy-paddle to visitors who flock to their beach to see the extraordinary site of wild pigs making a splash in the beautiful azure sea.

Their exploits have been captured on camera by photographer and ocean guide, Jim Abernethy, 52, from Florida, who first stumbled across the feral creatures a couple of years ago.

As this collection of photographs shows, the pigs are remarkably well adapted to their beach bum lifestyle of frolicking the water and lazing on the sand.

'Whenever I show my photos of these pigs people are just blown away,' explained Mr Abernethy.

'They uniquely live in complete harmony on their island paradise.

'They are surprisingly strong swimmers. Even the younger piglets are totally at home in the water.

'They're even happy to swim alongside people.'

Chilling out: The family of pigs snooze in the shade on their idyllic island

Nosey: Two pigs keep their heads and snouts above the Caribbean waves, and show that they are skilful swimmers

Pig Island, or Big Major Cay as it is officially known, is blessed with a natural water spring and is sheltered by a string of neighbouring islands that protects it from waves caused by tropical storms.

The pigs are thought to have been introduced to the island by passing sailors who may have thought they would make a good food source.

However, the sailors never returned and now all the lucky porkers have to worry about is where their next meal is coming from.

The clever pigs have worked out that the crews of passing yachts regularly dump excess food into the sea.

Happy: The pigs manage to survive by scavenging from ships and food from locals

Porky: Photographer Jim Abernethy poses for the camera with his trottered friends

The hungry pigs eagerly plunge into the waves when they see a yacht and will swim a few hundred feet up to the vessel in the hope of a free meal.

The pigs are so successful in their enterprise that they are now living the dream by raising their family of eight on a tropical island in the Caribbean with nothing to do but eat, sleep and swim.

In 2009 underwater photographer Eric Cheng stumbled across the unusual residents along with captain Mr Abernethy and took these images during a diving expedition.

Bay of pigs: A pig cools down off the island of Big Major Spot in the Bahamas

'We were in the southern Bahamas to photograph oceanic white-tip sharks,' said the then-33-year-old.

'Our captain, Jim Abernethy, heard there were pigs on Big Major so we decided to go and check it out.

'Upon approaching the white sandy beach, it is easy to spot the pigs - both pink and dark brown - lying in the sand.'

Making a splash: The playful pigs are feral but are fed by locals to ensure they stay on 'Pig Beach'

Mr Cheng added: 'Because locals bring food, the pigs will run into the water and actually swim out to the oncoming boats, as if to greet them individually. It is strange enough to see pigs laying around on tropical beaches of white sand, but to see them then charge into the water to greet oncoming boats is just bizarre.'

Spending several hours photographing and playing with the pigs, Mr Cheng and his team even managed to join them for a swim.

Give us a wave: The swine are a hit with locals and tourists who love to see them swim each day

'Nadine Umbscheiden, one of the photographers was so at ease with them that she managed to swim with them,' said Mr Cheng.

'We dubbed her the "pig whisperer" because she was so good at getting the pigs to swim to our cameras!'

Mr Cheng is the editor and publisher of Wetpixel.com, and is technical advisor and photographer for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Pig pals: Photographer Nadine Umbscheiden snorkels with a pig

source: dailymail

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