animals

Douglas Adams – Live In Göttingen

I’m very happy someone put this on youtube, and you will be too if you give yourself 45 minutes and just listen.

This is fantastic. I think there are a couple of bits missing from the whole presentation (which I suggest you try to get a hold of)  but I’ve put them on here in what I think is the correct order.

The first one is below, the others are also below, if you click the continuation page.

I say with complete confidence,  this will be moving, informative and utterly hilarious…

 

Siberian Tiger Shot Dead

Xinhua are reporting that a highly endangered Siberian tiger had to be shot dead a couple of days ago…

A female Siberian tiger escaped from a zoo and entered a public park in an east China city late Monday, but she was immediately put down by police on safety concerns, local officials said Tuesday.

The nine-year-old animal made her way out of the zoo after a zookeeper came to feed her but forgot to properly lock the cage. After the escape, the tiger roamed a public park in downtown Wuhu, a city in Anhui province, and occasionally met with frightened residents.

More than a dozen armed police came and shot the giant cat before she could attack humans.

A tragedy, especially given that…

Siberian tigers are among the world’s rarest species. The population of wild Siberian tigers is estimated at around 500, most of which live in eastern Russia and northeastern China.

In the light of this, I just wanted to refer you back to a recent article I wrote…

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If you want to get me angry then here is an easy way to do it. Watch an animal documentary and then describe one of the animals in it as “evil”.   They aren’t evil, by calling them that people are ascribing human characteristics to animals, which is called anthropomorphisation.   People do this all the time, for example believing that they can tell when their dogs are feeling guilty and it is an illusion, or better put, a delusion.

I also once watched a documentary about people who keep tigers as pets. A fair few of them ended up getting mauled or worse. I don’t think it is too controversial to paraphrase Douglas Adams and say that the only genuinely evil thing that happened in these situations was the people taking the tigers as pets in the first place. I’m sorry for them but although I know it’s harsh I can only think what the hell were they expecting? You cannot blame the tigers for doing their jobs as tigers.

(Cartoon from the Pleb)

I started thinking about all this again when I saw the following story on BBC today (the italics are mine)

Exotic animals on loose in Ohio

Dozens of exotic animals have escaped from a private zoo in Zanesville, Ohio, and are roaming the area, say police.

Police have been receiving sightings of cheetahs, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, tigers and lions. Twenty-five animals have reportedly been shot dead.

The animals’ owner, Terry Thompson, was found dead at the zoo, Muskingum County Animal Farm, but police have not said how he died.

We don’t know the circumstances of Thompson’s death and I am not going to speculate. I’m sorry he is dead as I would be when anyone dies but again, the first and probably only genuinely evil thing that happened here, which has subsequently led to the rest of the problems, was the removal of the animals from wherever they were and putting them in a private zoo in the first place. If these animals were taken from rescue centres or similar then you only need to move the removal I am talking about back a generation or two and the point still stands.

Now, the police are shooting these animals to kill. Even if you don’t agree with that it is easy to see why. These are bears, tigers, lions and so on. I said before that they are not evil or malign but neither are they cuddly toys – and the police department is charged with protecting the people in the area. If someone who was not involved with the zoo is killed or attacked then it is a real tragedy. Indeed, reports say that locals have been uneasy about having the private zoo in their area for some time, with previous escapes being mentioned too.

Other reports say that zookeepers from the local zoo, probably at risk to themselves, are also out trying to capture rather than kill the animals. This looks like a better option but you can still see why the police don’t want to take any chances.

My point, again, is that this terrible situation could have been avoided if the animals had not been removed from their habitat in the first place.

Now, I think the case for zoos is pretty weak in general. Whilst conditions in most of them have markedly improved over the years, it is still not the same thing as having the animals in their natural habitat. Captive-breeding is a mixed bag. There may be a case to be made for it in terms of critically endangered animals and many programs have been successful. However, there is no reason why a captive breeding program cannot be conducted in private instead of in the public eye for all to see and in fact many captive breeding programs are done away from the public. The quick retort to this is that sometimes there isn’t enough money to conduct the programs without the money that the public brings in, which in itself shows how much of a priority is really given to the problem of extinction.

To conclude, as far as I know, this private zoo was not conducting a breeding program and the owner of the zoo, Mr Thompson, must have known the risks associated with having these animals in his care. If he didn’t know the risks then he shouldn’t have been anywhere near them. These animals are now being shot for no other reason than that they (or their parents or grandparents) were unfortunate enough to have been kidnapped earlier.

Altogether now… none of these tragedies would be happening now IF THE ANIMALS HAD NOT…

Rafflesia The Gentleman Thug – A Short Review of David Attenborough’s Life On Air

I have just finished reading David Attenborough’s Life on Air. It is not the kind of thing I normally read because I don’t like reading green room stories or memoirs about a life in TV. In fact, I don’t much like TV so as I said, it was an unusual choice for me but I felt David Attenborough is something of an exception so I determined to give it a go.

Before I get to the content, I should just say I bought the book in a shop in South England where I had a temporary job last summer. It was a charity shop and it had no price on it. I asked the woman how much it was and she replied, slightly surprised, “Oh, you’re very Scottish”.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this. These possibilities leapt to mind…

  1. Yes, can I help you?
  2. And?
  3. Do you go around just naming things? Do you say “oh, that’s a shelf, and that’s a floor” every time you see one?

Anyway, I have to say the book was an excellent read. Some of it seemed familiar because the documentary of the same name covers a lot of the material but most of the things in the documentary are covered in more depth in the book.

There is a bit of internal BBC politics but  mostly from a bygone era and not enough to make you stop reading it. Everyone knows the wildlife documentaries but less people know about his spell as controller of BBC 2 and also Director of Programming for BBC television. The angle about these things in the book is that although in part interesting jobs, thse things eventually became distractions from his real desire to make wildlife programmes.

Although, having said that, the word wildlife doesn’t really cover it all because there have been plenty of Attenborough written/produced/narrated/commissioned programmes about  geology, paleontology and anthropology too. He also mixes in some telling words about the worsening environmental crisis that threatens to destroy a large number of the species he has been filming.

Also, for a man with a fair number of royal titles to his name he seems to have a rather healthy disdain for the whole ridiculous merry-go-round. This is revealed in a couple of places, the first was how he tried to get out of being the man responsible for the Queen’s speech and the second I will come to.

With all these things in mind the book never really gets bogged down in one particular area. At the beginning there is a lot of in the pioneering days of nature filming stuff and it makes interesting reading when you consider who it is coming from. It seems that in the early days part of the point of the programs was to capture some of the animals for London Zoo although this practice seemed to die out fairly quickly.

When we move past that we get into landmark series such as Kenneth Baker’s Civilisation and others and then onto some of the more remarkable modern series that have been made.

The only thing that disappointed me in the book was that he didn’t directly address the issue of  certain stations buying his documentaries and then editing out the references to evolution. I would have enjoyed reading his take on that.

So why this title about Rafflesia then? Well, Raffles the Gentlemen Thug was a very funny character in Viz Magazine. This character was basically a modern hooligan using victorian era language and the juxtaposition made it funny. Sentences like “My scarves are fashioned of the finest silk sir. Any man who suggests differently is a c*nt” are pretty memorable.

While I doubt that Attenborough is a reader of that magazine Attenborough wrote about the plant Rafflesia which produces the “largest unbranched inflorescence” (not the largest flower) in the world. The plant is a parasite which lives inside a host vine and the only visible part of it is the flower. Attenborough had this to say about it…

I am not one of those, like Aesop or Robert the Bruce, who readily derive moral precepts from the behaviour of animals, and I thought I would be even less likely to find them in the cycle of the life of plants, but Rafflesis did seem to me to provide a parable. One has to ask why this particular plant should produce the most extravangt and flamboyant of all flowers. It occured to me that Rafflesia does not work for its living. The vine itself has to build leaves and stems to produce its food and ultimately construct its flowers. But Rafflesia does not concern itself with such practical matters. It simply absorbs all the food it needs from its host. Indeed there is virtually no limit on how much it can take and no curb to its extravagance. So it can build the most grandiose of flowers. It is the aristocrat of the tropical forest plant community.

Folly Upon Folly

If you want to get me angry then here is an easy way to do it. Watch an animal documentary and then describe one of the animals in it as “evil”.   They aren’t evil, by calling them that people are ascribing human characteristics to animals, which is called anthropomorphisation.   People do this all the time, for example believing that they can tell when their dogs are feeling guilty and it is an illusion, or better put, a delusion.

I also once watched a documentary about people who keep tigers as pets. A fair few of them ended up getting mauled or worse. I don’t think it is too controversial to paraphrase Douglas Adams and say that the only genuinely evil thing that happened in these situations was the people taking the tigers as pets in the first place. I’m sorry for them but although I know it’s harsh I can only think what the hell were they expecting? You cannot blame the tigers for doing their jobs as tigers.

(Cartoon from the Pleb)

I started thinking about all this again when I saw the following story on BBC today (the italics are mine)

Exotic animals on loose in Ohio

Dozens of exotic animals have escaped from a private zoo in Zanesville, Ohio, and are roaming the area, say police.

Police have been receiving sightings of cheetahs, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, tigers and lions. Twenty-five animals have reportedly been shot dead.

The animals’ owner, Terry Thompson, was found dead at the zoo, Muskingum County Animal Farm, but police have not said how he died.

We don’t know the circumstances of Thompson’s death and I am not going to speculate. I’m sorry he is dead as I would be when anyone dies but again, the first and probably only genuinely evil thing that happened here, which has subsequently led to the rest of the problems, was the removal of the animals from wherever they were and putting them in a private zoo in the first place. If these animals were taken from rescue centres or similar then you only need to move the removal I am talking about back a generation or two and the point still stands.

Now, the police are shooting these animals to kill. Even if you don’t agree with that it is easy to see why. These are bears, tigers, lions and so on. I said before that they are not evil or malign but neither are they cuddly toys – and the police department is charged with protecting the people in the area. If someone who was not involved with the zoo is killed or attacked then it is a real tragedy. Indeed, reports say that locals have been uneasy about having the private zoo in their area for some time, with previous escapes being mentioned too.

Other reports say that zookeepers from the local zoo, probably at risk to themselves, are also out trying to capture rather than kill the animals. This looks like a better option but you can still see why the police don’t want to take any chances.

My point, again, is that this terrible situation could have been avoided if the animals had not been removed from their habitat in the first place.

Now, I think the case for zoos is pretty weak in general. Whilst conditions in most of them have markedly improved over the years, it is still not the same thing as having the animals in their natural habitat. Captive-breeding is a mixed bag. There may be a case to be made for it in terms of critically endangered animals and many programs have been successful. However, there is no reason why a captive breeding program cannot be conducted in private instead of in the public eye for all to see and in fact many captive breeding programs are done away from the public. The quick retort to this is that sometimes there isn’t enough money to conduct the programs without the money that the public brings in, which in itself shows how much of a priority is really given to the problem of extinction.

To conclude, as far as I know, this private zoo was not conducting a breeding program and the owner of the zoo, Mr Thompson, must have known the risks associated with having these animals in his care. If he didn’t know the risks then he shouldn’t have been anywhere near them. These animals are now being shot for no other reason than that they (or their parents or grandparents) were unfortunate enough to have been kidnapped earlier.

Altogether now… none of these tragedies would be happening now IF THE ANIMALS HAD NOT…

Planet Green Interview

A while back I was interviewed by author Mickey Z for the website Planet Green about my other website Exit Stage Right.

Here is the interview…

Michael Greenwell Puts the Focus on Extinction with “Exit Stage Right” (Interview)

Only his DJ career should be extinct

Scotland’s Michael Greenwell has worked, at various times, as a university tutor, a barman, a DJ (“not a very good one,” he clarifies), an office lackey, supermarket worker, president of a small charity, a researcher, a librarian, a volunteer worker in Nepal during the civil war there, and “some other things that were too tedious to mention.” Nowadays, he explains, “I am always in the education sector in one way or another.”

Part of his role as educator is the creation of a blog called Exit Stage Right, where you’ll find this mission statement of sorts:

“We are in the early stages of what could easily become the biggest mass extinction the planet has ever seen. This site is a resource for anyone to use to keep track of what has just become extinct or what is in serious danger.”

Jeff Corwin, author of 100 Heartbeats, would likely agree: “Every 20 minutes we lose an animal species,” Corwin explains. “If this rate continues, by century’s end, 50% of all living species will be gone. It is a phenomenon known as the sixth extinction. The fifth extinction took place 65 million years ago when a meteor smashed into the Earth, killing off the dinosaurs and many other species and opening the door for the rise of mammals. Currently, the sixth extinction is on track to dwarf the fifth.”

Thus, promoting awareness and action on the crucial issue of extinction is part of Michael Greenwell’s activist life and spirit. “I used to be an inveterate marcher but have pretty much given up on it now and like everyone else am looking for a way to effect real change without precipitating disaster or inviting the imposition of further constraints upon the public,” he says.

To hear more of his thoughts, check out the interview below…

My Conversation With Michael Greenwell

Planet Green: How did you get started on the issue of extinction?

Michael Greenwell: A few years ago, I started to notice the increasing frequency of the “Only 200 of this thing left” or “__________ on verge of extinction” stories that pop up every couple of weeks on page 11. Like anyone else I thought “Oh, that’s terrible” but I started to wonder why these things were not front page news. It is an entirely different category of story to a story about some politician being an idiot in one way or another (don’t get me started on celebrities), because if a politician is sacked or voted out there is always another vainglorious clown waiting to take his or her place. Unlike politicians, in the animal extinction issue, “gone” means “gone forever and not coming back” which is a much more serious thing.

PG: How did that lead to the creation of your blog?

MG: I thought about just putting all the stories I could find on the issue on one site with no fear or favor about where it comes from—just a link to where the story comes from and then the info. I hoped maybe to get some general readers but also that maybe some activists and scientists that work in the field would take a look at it and use it as a resource. That has happily been the case. Aside from that you would be surprised at some of the abuse I have got for it.

PG: Is there a common thread in such abuse?

MG: Usually it is of the “animals will hurt you if they get a chance so why should we give a shit about them?” variety. This is so ridiculous I don’t even bother responding to it usually.

PG: Conversely, have you heard from readers who’ve thanked you for the blog and now see extinction as an urgent issue?

MG: Yes. Notwithstanding the abuse I get quite a lot of correspondence about it all. I often get emails from teenagers asking for help with a school project about something which is a positive sign. If i can I direct them to where they want to be looking for more information on the subject or groups they want to join. There are also a lot of people who tell me that they had never realised the problem was this serious and so on. A lot of conservationist groups send me their press releases too. Finally, I occasionally receive emails from people asking me to endorse their eco-product or enviro-tourism. I haven’t yet seen one of these that I would consider having anything to do with.

PG: If you could reach as wide an audience as possible with information about extinction and the human role in this maddening trend, what would you tell them?

MG: I was thinking the about it the other day when I was showing Supersize Me to a group of students. The doctor was telling Morgan Spurlock about how the human liver is resilient and can heal itself but that by doing his McDeaths experiment he was literally pickling his liver with toxic food like was done in Leaving in Las Vegas with alcohol. I thought that there was an analogy there. The ecosystem is resilient, it can take a lot of shit that you might throw at it. Even if it takes a temporary hit it can rebound and replenish itself…some individual cells will be gone of course but other ones are made. This is the natural way of it in normal times. However, if you just continually throw toxins at it day after day after day then there comes a point when it just breaks down and there are only 2 ways out…transplant or death. As there is no transplant to another planet available (and even if there was, should it make a difference?) we and everything else only have one way to go if we don’t stop our toxic diet. And the doctor has been telling us for a long long time that we need to start looking after ourselves better.

Another Video by Michael Greenwell

PG: Okay, what can we do to start looking after ourselves better?

MG: Ideal world or right here right now?

PG: A little of both?

MG: On these issues the public are way ahead of the politicians. We have to change first. We can’t wait for them because we don’t have enough time left. That isn’t to say we should let them off the hook either. Having said that, consumer choices sometimes seem like the difference with voting Tory or Labour or Democrat or Republican. Like coke and diet coke. Essentially it is like choosing to be shot in the head 5 times or shot in the head 4 times. So if there is something to be done in the field of consumption (did you know that that is what they used to call Tuberculosis?) then the choice is not really between this thing and another supposedly more ethical thing. It is rather between this thing and nothing or repairing the old thing instead of throwing it away. Use and buy LESS is the message…instead of use and buy different, even it is tougher than choosing one thing or the other to consume. Buy less stuff, use less power. LESS is a very difficult message to transmit because everywhere we look we see the message MORE on every billboard, TV screen and in every newspaper and magazine. This is at least something practical we can do to reduce the damage. Ideally, we could realize that we are a species that is capable of improving our surroundings and work out why we seem so often to do the exact opposite. Like what I am trying to do with Exit Stage Right…. the first step is seeing that you have a serious problem.

PG: Where can readers find your work on the Web?

MG: I am a conscientious objector to Facebook. You can get me on Twitter and there is Exit Stage Right and my home page.

Out of Self-Interest

Between a quarter and a third of the world’s wildlife has been lost since 1970, according to data compiled by the Zoological Society of London. 

– Quote from well-known anarchist group, The Royal Zoological Society

Now this is a major major crisis, what is causing all of this?

Populations of land-based species fell by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29%, it says.

Humans are wiping out about 1% of all other species every year, and one of the “great extinction episodes” in the Earth’s history is under way, it says.

Pollution, farming and urban expansion, over-fishing and hunting are blamed.

Even if the pleas of scientists, environmentalists and a large part of the public have still not convinced people that the extinction crisis is real and will be catastrophic, maybe an appeal to self-interest could work.

For example, these two stories have recently been on BBC…

Dogfish shark chemical squalamine ‘stops human viruses’

A chemical found in the dogfish shark could be a safe and potent weapon against human viruses, say scientists.

Noting how powerful the shark’s natural immunity to viral infections is, the researchers set about finding out why.

They already knew that the fish makes a compound called squalamine that it uses to fight off bacteria.

Lab tests revealed squalamine is also a good antiviral candidate, killing a broad spectrum of human and animal viruses, PNAS journal reports.

Synthetic squalamine has already been given to patients in clinical trials to stop blood vessel growth in cancers, with no major side effects.

The second…

Coral could hold key to sunscreen pill

“What we have found is that the algae living within the coral makes a compound that we think is transported to the coral, which then modifies it into a sunscreen for the benefit of both the coral and the algae.

“Not only does this protect them both from UV damage, but we have seen that fish that feed on the coral also benefit from this sunscreen protection, so it is clearly passed up the food chain.”

This could ultimately mean that people might be able to get inbuilt sun protection for their skin and eyes by taking a tablet containing the compounds. But for now, Dr Long’s team are focusing their efforts on a lotion.

These are of course only 2 small examples. There are 100s more, possibly the most famous being that aspirin comes from the bark of a tree.

This is not an exortation that we all start using herbal medicines, I am talking about real stuff here.

It’s a very simple situation. If you wipe everything out, you won’t have as many medicines to help recover from diseases that may be in part caused by the fact you have wiped everything out.

Dog Mutilation

I have an uncle who is a very smart guy. He has a PhD in electrical engineering and a very logical and practical mind. He is also not given to getting overly emotional over certain issues. This is why I was surprised when one time we were talking and he got quite riled over the subject of tail-docking (or just ‘docking’), which is the process of removing (or stunting the growth of) the tail of an animal, very often pet dogs. His suggestion, one which I totally agreed with, was that this practice should henceforth be referred to as “dog-mutilation”. This he suggested, might help to stop it.

The mutilation of dogs and other animals in this fashion has been going on for some time and in some cases there were reasons for it, particularly with working animals (from Wikipedia…)

For example, a large horse used for hauling large loads might have its tail docked to prevent it from becoming entangled in tow ropes or harness; without docking, it could be dangerous to the horse, painful if the tail were tangled, and inconvenient to the owner to tie up the horse’s tail for every use.

The practice is still common in agriculture…

  • In the case of domestic pigs, where commercially raised animals are kept in close quarters, tail docking is performed to prevent injury or to prevent animals from chewing or biting each others’ tails.
  • Many breeds of sheep have their tails docked to reduce fly strike. Also used for this purpose is Mulesing.

If we consider the case of pet dogs the situation is complicated. It seems to be done basically for cosmetic reasons or to make things easier for the owner. The docking of tails by lay people was banned in the UK in the 90s from July 1993 as it was mostly done by dog breeders. Later, in 2007,   it was banned almost completely (so even vets weren’t allowed to do it) except in the case of certain working dogs.

So if it has already been banned, why should I go on talking about it? Well, the truth is that banned or not, it is still going on all the time. A quick walk in the park at dog-walking time will show you that. Maybe people should be stopped and asked “Why have you mutilated your dog?”.

From the website k9obedience.co.uk...

The Department of Companion Animals, Queensland , carried out a detailed study of 50 puppies aged between 3-5 days old undergoing docking. The puppies were Doberman, Rottweilers and Bouviers that traditionally have the tail docked very short and so requires a suture to assist healing. The outcome of the report was as follows:

“All pups appeared distressed by the amputation of the tail. Relatively continuous mild vocalisations during the preparation of the tail turned dramatically to repeated and intense shrieking vocalisations at the moment the tail was docked. The intensity of vocalisations decreased slightly (but was still above the intensity made during preparation of the tail) in the period between amputation and placement of the suture (if appropriate). At the moment of piercing the skin for a suture placement, vocalisations again returned to levels comparable with the amputation. Similar intense vocalisations were noticed when pressure was placed on the suture material as the knot was tied. The average number of shrieks made during the amputation of the tail was 24, (range of 5-23.) The average number of whimpers made during the amputation of the tail was 18, (range of 2 -46.) All pups exhibited some degree of bleeding from the stump following docking.”

When the pups were placed back into their box they stumbled around and made uncoordinated limb movements and whimpered for some time. They had to remain separated from their mother for some time to prevent the mother licking the mutilated pup. The pro-docking organisations claim that the puppy does recover from the procedure so no harm is done. Some puppies however do not recover when the amputation is carried out illegally as the RSPCA discovered when eleven puppies died from shock and blood loss, after having their tails cut off with a Stanley knife.

Furthermore…

The pro-docking lobby claim that puppies aged between 3-5 days old do not feel pain because their nervous systems and sensory organs are immature. This view lacks credibility especially as evidence given to the House of Commons Committee on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2004 by an expert from University of Birmingham Centre for Biomedical Ethics said:

“Very young animals are likely to feel more pain than older animals.”

Studies have proved that cutting the tail tip of mice increases sensitivity to pain in later life, an effect known as hyperalgesia. In fact puppies do feel pain and sensitivity to pain for many months after docking. Rarely mentioned is the fact that tail docking can have far reaching health issues. Due to the relationship between muscles in the dog’s tail and the pelvic area, docking can affect muscle function around the rectum and pelvis thereby carrying a risk of faecal incontinence, acquired urinary incontinence and hernias. The tail is an extension of the dog’s spine including various muscles and tendons . An example of this is the rectococcygeus muscle on the hind wall of the dog’s rear, near to the anus. This muscle is attached to the base of the tail as well and supports the anal canal and rectum along with the Levator ani muscle. These two muscles also assist in movement of the tail and when the dog has a bowel motion. Docking the tail must obviously affect these muscles, a fact that is backed by studies showing that breeds such as the Boxer have a predisposition to perineal hernia.

The RSPCA (for non UK people RSPCA – Royal Society for the Protection and Care of Animals) had this to say...

Those in favour of docking often suggest the procedure is done to prevent tail damage in gundogs and working dogs, yet no one can predict that a dog will ever injure its tail severely enough to warrant an amputation. There can also never be a guarantee that a puppy will become a gundog, so an exemption would be unenforceable and would make no sense from an animal welfare point of view.

“There is no evidence that some dogs have more sensitive tails or are more prone to damaging their tails than others,” said the RSPCA’s chief veterinary adviser, Tim Miles. “This simple fact demolishes the argument that some ‘working’ breeds, such as spaniels and pointers, should still have their tails amputated as puppies, when the accepted ethical view is that other breeds’ tails should no longer be docked.”

According to a scientific study in Denmark (1996), out of 76,000 dogs seen in 10 clinics in one year, there were 26 with tail injuries (0.037 per cent). Based on this robust evidence, even if the pro-dockers are right and there is a 20 per cent increase in tail injuries following a docking ban (which is doubtful), tail injuries would rise from under 0.037 per cent to 0.044 per cent. Leaving 99.95 per cent of dogs with healthy, happy, uninjured tails.

So there you have it, in the majority of cases it is dog-mutilation and not “docking”. And to reiterate, I am saying all this because one way or another many dogs are still being mutilated for purely cosmetic reasons of for the sake of convenience and if vets aren’t doing it then someone somewhere is. It should stop.

Animal Intelligence

This is a truly remarkable story with huge implications about how these animals should be treated. I have topped and tailed it here.

The full story is here…

Spitting and urinating chimps ‘replay Aesop’s fable’

The study was carried out with gorillas and chimpanzees.

The primates were presented with a vertical glass tube, which was secured to a cage so it could not be moved or broken. At the bottom was a peanut, floating on a small amount of water.

Daniel Hanus Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology

They were also given access to a water dispenser.

The idea was that the animals would take water from the dispenser in their mouths, and then spit it into the tube to raise the water level.

It would take several visits back and forth between the dispenser and tube to gather enough water to get to the peanut.

The team found that none of the five gorillas was able to complete the task.

Chimps however were more successful. Out of 43 chimps, based in the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, in Uganda, and Germany’s Leipzig Zoo, 14 worked out that they needed to take the water in their mouths and spit it into the tube, and seven did this enough times to successfully obtain a peanut.

Dr Hanus said the study highlighted the chimps’ ability to solve problems.

He explained: “You cannot explain it by trial-and-error learning. They weren’t just spitting water around the room and some fell in by accident.

“Instead, they were standing in front of the problem, trying to work out the solution – at first by trying to use their fingers, or trying to break it.

“But some, then went to the drinker and got the mouthful of water and came back and spat it directly into the tube, and a few did it enough times to get the peanut.”

Here is a short video by me on a similar subject (with the help of Douglas Adams)..