A Chimpanzee Birthday Bash

July 2nd, 2013

By Brandon Allen

Koko, the party animal. Photo credit: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Koko the chimp celebrated her 40th birthday this month at the Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, England.  The zookeepers set out piñatas and wrapped treats, like tomatoes and yogurt, for the beloved chimpanzee.  These presents not only help Koko celebrate her birthday but also “keep her stimulated and encourage her to be inquisitive” according to Keeper Kathy Doherty.  Koko, the oldest chimp and resident of Whipsnade, has reached a milestone age.

Koko can be seen at the zoo making funny faces at visitors or relaxing on her favorite log.  She lives alongside Nicky, Phil, Grant, Bonny, and Elvis in the large “chimpnasium” where she sleeps, climbs, and plays.

Chimpanzees are complex social animals and naturally live in communities that are comprised of 15 or more individuals. Research estimates that the current chimpanzee population is only a tenth of what it was twenty years ago. There are less than 300,000 chimpanzees remaining because of greater human-chimp contact, the bushmeat market, and the steady degradation of the chimps’ natural habitat.

Koko explores her birthday piñata. Photo credit: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Who doesn’t love birthday presents? Photo credit: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

 

Activism: oil in Virunga National Park

March 1st, 2011

Note: mongabay.com does not endorse the action below, but believes its readers may be interested in taking action or discussing the issue in comments.


Male gorilla in Gabon. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently considering allowing oil companies SOCO and Dominion into Virunga National Park for drilling. Home to a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, hippos, lions, forest elephants, and rare birds Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of Africa’s most biodiverse parks and is classified by the UN as a World Heritage Site. Conservation organizations and the UN have come out against the plans to open a portion of the park to drilling.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has started a petition against the mine: Urgent: help stop oil exploration inside one of Africa’s most iconic national parks.

To read more about the prospect of drilling in Virunga National Park:

Oil company charged after allegedly forcing entry into Virunga National Park

(02/21/2011) The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) national parks authority, ICCN, has filed a suit against oil company, SOCO International, for allegedly forcing entry into Virunga National Park. The legal row comes amid revelations that two oil companies, SOCO and Dominion Petroleum, are exploring the park for oil.

UN and conservation organizations condemn big oil’s plan to drill in Virunga National Park

(01/20/2011) WWF, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN have all recently expressed concerns about two oil companies’ plan to explore for oil in Africa’s oldest and famed Virunga National Park. Home to a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, hippos, lions, forest elephants, and rare birds Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of Africa’s most biodiverse parks and is classified by the UN as a World Heritage Site. But according to WWF plans by oil companies SOCO International and Dominion Petroleum could jeopardize not only the wildlife and ecosystems, but also local people.

Photos: baby gorilla takes first steps

February 15th, 2011

Nicknamed 'Tiny', a three-month old baby male gorilla took his first steps a the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Zoo. Tiny had not left his mother since birth, but the 12-year-old mom, named Mjukuu, encouraged him to begin exploring his home. While Tiny is beginning to get his first teeth, keepers say he has awhile to go before reaching a full-sized silverback male. Photos courtesy of ZSL.

Nicknamed ‘Tiny’, a three-month old baby male gorilla took his first steps a the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Zoo. Tiny had not left his mother since birth, but the 12-year-old mom, named Mjukuu, encouraged him to begin exploring his home. While Tiny is beginning to get his first teeth, keepers say he has awhile to go before reaching a full-sized silverback male. Photos courtesy of ZSL.

What a face!

December 5th, 2010

Orangutan making faces

A Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) makes a face. Listed as Critically Endangered the Sumatran orangutan is largely threatened by habitat loss to plantations, such as wood pulp and palm oil, and logging. After losing their forests, many orangutans, such as this one, are now housed in rehabilitation centers. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Click to see more photos of orangutans.

Orangutan Awareness and Caring Weeks Collide

November 18th, 2010

post by by Melanie J. Martin, special to mongabay.com


Sumatran Orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park. Photo by Rhett A. Butler in May 2010

The Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF) and other conservation NGOs are celebrating November 7-13, 2010 as Orangutan Caring Week. The theme this year is “Back to Green,” which, according to OURF, implies returning orangutans to the wild while becoming more ecologically conscious. Meanwhile, Orangutan Outreach and other NGOs recognize November 7-15 as Orangutan Awareness Week.

On November 10, says Orangutan Outreach, people around the world sported orange outfits in honor of the orange primates who share almost 97 percent of our DNA. Orangutan Outreach and OURF provide resources to help zoos, schools, and individuals hold their own awareness or fundraising events. More than a dozen zoos around the world will participate in Orangutan Caring Week, says OURF.

The NGOs stress that action must follow awareness. The critically endangered Sumatran orangutans stand on the brink of elimination, numbering about 6,600, and Bornean orangutans are endangered as well, numbering roughly 50,000, according to Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Australia. Furthermore, their populations have been separated by forest fragmentation, leading to potential genetic decline. Widespread awareness of the issues affecting orangutans may lead to increased protections for the hairy primates, the NGOs hope.

According to Dave Dellatore of the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS), palm oil poses the greatest threat to orangutans and the other species that share their habitat. Indonesia’s rainforests provide much of the world’s oxygen supply, and palm oil plantations are quickly claiming much of the natural forest. Logging, forest fires, and poaching, made possible by the easy access plantations and logging roads provide, also pose a serious threat, according to SOS.

Habitat destruction affects other species as well, like tigers, rhinos, and slow lorises. NGOs target orangutans because they’re a keystone species—when protecting orangutans, people protect vital habitat for numerous species, SOS claims. Plus, orangutans get people’s attention, as Andrew de Sousa of the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Project (GPOCP) in Kalimantan says. “We use the orangutan as a mascot,” he states, since people often identify with the orange primates.

SOS encourages people to help orangutans and their habitat by writing to governments and companies, asking them to support sustainable palm oil. Speaking out about the issue, and helping others to cultivate awareness, has a much larger effect than trying to boycott products with palm oil, SOS says.

In Sumatra and Kalimantan, awareness campaigns never cease. GPOCP, for instance, holds presentations in local villages in southwest Kalimantan, sometimes led by teenage volunteers. “We didn’t ask them to do this,” says field officer Frederik Wendy Tamariska of GPOCP. Jimy, a seventeen-year-old Kalimantan native, does puppet shows in elementary schools and lectures in villages, also showing a film about rainforest biodiversity. He does this, he says, “Because I have a great interest to care about the environment and the forest,” and outside school hours can typically be found at the GPOCP’s environmental education center. As a result of grassroots awareness programs, villagers are adopting more sustainable practices, Tamariska and de Sousa assert.

The Indonesian government has recently taken steps to support conservation of its forests. In 2011, a moratorium on logging will halt new concessions on peatland and natural forests for two years, according to a recent Jakarta Globe article. The Indonesian government has also vowed to release all orangutans in rehabilitation centers by 2015, although many conservationists believe the process will take longer. These pledges may only become reality if backed by widespread public support. “The idea is to enroll the public to participate in ensuring the future of one of our closest primate relatives,” says OURF president Dr. Gary Shapiro.

Gorilla born at the London Zoo

November 1st, 2010

ZSL baby gorilla

Mjukuu with her new baby boy. Photo courtesy of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) .

On October 26th, the London Zoo received a new arrival: a baby western lowland gorilla. The as yet unnamed boy was born to first-time mother Mjukuu. Zoological director, David Field, said the pair were doing ‘brilliantly’.

Classified by the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered, western lowland gorillas, a subspecies of lowland gorillas, are just barely hanging on in west Africa. Hunting and the Ebola virus are the main threats. Large-scale logging has brought commercial hunters ever deeper into gorilla territory. Given the species low reproductive rate, even minimal hunting can devastate a population.