Chalk up another mark of chimpanzee intelligence–they not only use tools for gathering food, but also to improve their sex lives.
The chimps don’t have to duck into a sex shop to gather their erotic implements—the tools they use literally grow on trees. Researchers have documented chimps in a Tanzanian colony using brittle leaves in their mating rituals.
In a botanical bit of foreplay, the male chimps grab dry leaves and break them apart with their hands or mouths, creating a distinctive raspy sound that signals their sexual readiness. Think of it as the chimp equivalent of putting “Let’s Get It On” on the stereo.
As researcher William McGrew explains (slightly graphically) to The New York Times:
Gorilla conservationists in Nigeria have a new ally–snails.
The critically endangered Cross River gorilla is under constant threat from poachers in this poor nation, as poachers kill the animals for their bushmeat or sell them illegally to traffickers in the exotic pet trade. With just 300 Cross River gorillas left, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hopes to offer locals an alternate source of both food and revenue so they’ll leave the poor apes alone. Enter the snail.
For this conservation project, the WCS picked eight former gorilla poachers and got them to start farming African giant snails, a local delicacy. The WCS helped the poachers construct snail pens and stocked each pen with 230 giant snails, writes Scientific American. As the snails breed quickly, farmers can expect a harvest of 3,000 snails per year. Scientific American adds:
According to WCS, this should end up being a fairly profitable enterprise for local farmers. Annual costs are estimated at just $87 per farmer, with profits around $413 per year. The meat of one gorilla, says the WCS, would net a poacher around $70.
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Conservationists in southeast Asia are running a high stakes dating service for apes—gibbons specifically, of which 15 of the 16 species are endangered.
Gibbons are being captured and illegally adopted as pets throughout Borneo, so Chanee Brule, who has had a life long fascination with gibbons—he authored a guide to their care at age 13—has taken it upon himself to return rescued gibbons to the wild. He hosts a radio show known as “Radio Gibbon” from his gibbon sanctuary, which intersperses pop hits with public service announcements about ape conservation. When listeners tip him off about abandoned pet gibbons, he rescues these apes and cares for them at his team’s sanctuary, with the ultimate goal of reintroducing them into the wild. However, his task is even harder than it sounds.
Who says the art world is suffering from the downturn? A project by the Great Ape Trust of Iowa involves an exhibition and auction of original painting, with the proceeds going towards wildlife conservation efforts. The only catch: The artists are all apes.
These simian painters consist of a group of orangutans and bonobos who reside at the Trust for behavioral study. Lest anyone think the captive apes’ work is forced labor, the artists are given a choice over whether they’d like to paint—though experts say the cognitive challenge of making art ups the apes’ life enrichment—and are allowed total discretion over which canvases, colors, and brush strokes they use. The results are a Pollock-esque mix of bright colors and shapes—as well as a couple self-portraits that look a little too detailed to be done by ape hands alone. Not that we’re suggesting anything. (For a slideshow, go here.)
Last year, when the auction debuted, it raised $16,725 for the Great Ape Trust’s two major conservation initiatives, the Gishwati Area Conservation Program in Rwanda and the Ketambe Research Center on the island of Sumatra. Bidding for this work is already up to $1,200—more than what the average human makes for a piece of art these days.
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