Chimpanzees enjoy getting drunk on wine

Chimpanzees in Guinea, West Africa drink naturally fermented palm wine from raffia palm trees, sometimes enough to exhibit "visible signs of inebriation," according to a new scientific study. From BBC News:

The chimps used drinking tools called leaf sponges - handfuls of leaves that they chew and crush into absorbent sponges, dip into the liquid and suck out the contents.

To work out the extent of the animals' indulging, the scientists measured the alcohol content of the wine in the containers and filmed the chimps' "drinking sessions".

The research team, led by Dr Kimberley Hockings from Oxford Brookes University and the Centre for Research in Anthropology in Portugal, worked out that the sap was about 3% alcohol by volume.

"Some individuals were estimated to have consumed about 85ml of alcohol," she said, "the equivalent to 8.5 UK units [approximately equal to a bottle of wine]".

"[They] displayed behavioural signs of inebriation, including falling asleep shortly after drinking.

"Chimpanzees found to drink alcoholic plant sap in wild" (BBC News)

Tools to tipple: ethanol ingestion by wild chimpanzees using leaf-sponges (Royal Society Open Science) Read the rest

Women, sex, and monkeys: what primatology can teach us about female desire

"With primatology, science has refused to see that females are the aggressors, the rulers, the initiators of sex. For so long, almost to a humorous extent, we have looked right past the truth; which is that the females are leaving their young, they're objectifying their mates, they're the agents of desire. The psychologist had to keep getting rid of his male monkeys because the females got bored with them!" A snip from Zoe Williams's Guardian piece on Daniel Bergner, author of What Do Women Want?, a new book about female sexual desire. Read the rest

Do chimpanzees understand death?

My new column for The New York Times Magazine involved some of the most emotionally intense reporting I've done in a while. It's all about a little-discussed genre of observation-based scientific papers, documenting what chimpanzees and bonobos (and, sometimes, other primates) do when confronted with death. These are difficult events for scientists to catch — they don't happen very often, and it's even less frequent that researchers happen to be right there to record and film the whole thing, especially in the wild. Because of that, scientists can't say a lot that's definitive about these behaviors. But they can tell you what they've seen. And what they've seen can be devastating.

Pansy was probably in her 50s when she died, which is pretty good for a chimpanzee. She passed in a way most of us would envy — peacefully, with her adult daughter, Rosie, and her best friend, Blossom, by her side. Thirty years earlier, Pansy and Blossom arrived together at the Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park near Stirling, Scotland. They raised their children together. Now, as Pansy struggled to breathe, Blossom held her hand and stroked it. When the scientists at the park realized Pansy’s death was imminent, they turned on video cameras, capturing intimate moments during her last hours as Blossom, Rosie and Blossom’s son, Chippy, groomed her and comforted her as she got weaker. After she passed, the chimps examined the body, inspecting Pansy’s mouth, pulling her arm and leaning their faces close to hers. Blossom sat by Pansy’s body through the night.

Read the rest

A brief history of space monkeys and spies

In the late 1950s, American scientists very publicly readied a crew of monkeys for a series of trips into Earth orbit and back. As far as the researchers knew, Project Discoverer was an actual, honest-to-Ike peaceful scientific program. Naturally, they were wrong about that. In reality, their work was part of an elaborate cover-up masking a spy satellite program. At The Primate Diaries, Eric Michael Johnson reports on some fascinating space history. Read the rest

Touched by a mountain gorilla

An amazing close encounter with wild mountain gorillas in Uganda.

Orangutan rescued from poaching, returned to wild, then shot 62 times by thrill-seeking villagers

A blind Sumatran orangutan named Leuser was poached, sold as a gift, rescueed by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, and returned to the wild. Then, villagers seeking entertainment shot him 62 times. He has been rescued again, and his story is told in photos here. Read the rest

Chimpanzee testing: the beginning of the end? (video)

For PBS NewsHour, Miles O'Brien reports on whether there are ever instances in which the scientific value of research should offset the moral cost of working with chimpanzees. The US government has moved to limit some of the research it funds with chimps in recent months. Medical experiments on chimps can be invasive: one animal may endure dozens of injections, blood samples and liver biopsies in her lifetime. But some scientists argue that this is the only way to advance medicine. MP3 and transcript here, along with video.

PHOTO: Miles O'Brien. "If they could talk, what would these residents of Chimp Haven tell us?"

 Chimpanzee mother learns her infant has died Report: Scientific research on chimpanzees "unjustified," should be ... Astrochimp ad astra: 50th anniversary of Ham the chimpanzee's ... Do chimps grieve? Story Time: Jerry- The World's Most Human Chimp Young bonobo may be expressing symptoms of autism Read the rest

Jane Goodall and Jon Stewart hug like chimps

Last night's Jane Goodall Daily Show appearance started with a warm, chimp-style greeting.

Jane Goodall made her second appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night, and the first order of business was to make sure Jon Stewart remembered the proper chimp greeting. And then she talked about the new documentary from Disney, Chimpanzee. As you can imagine, all of this was fascinating and adorable.

Jane Goodall Was On The Daily Show Last Night and Chimp-Greeted Jon Stewart [Video] Read the rest

Project Nim: heartbreaking film on animal ethics, and academic arrogance

[Video Link] I went to see the documentary Project Nim last night at the advice of a friend, and would like to recommend it to all who read Boing Boing. James Marsh (Man on Wire) directed. Be prepared to cry or require hugs afterwards. Above, the trailer. It's in theaters throughout the USA now.

I was talking about it with Google+ followers last night, and one shared this review which squares with my own reaction. You can watch the first 6 minutes of the film here. The film is based on Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human, by Elizabeth Hess, who consulted on the film.

Without spoiling too much, I'd just like to share that the most upbeat takeaways for me were: Deadheads really can be awesome people. And, chimps like weed. Read the rest