A surprisingly dramatic world of lawsuits, mass resignations, and dysfunctional relationships between humans and apes. From Koko and Kanzi to Chantek and Nim Chimpsky, research into human-ape communications used to be all the rage. Nowadays, not so much. What happened?
In the late Sixties and early Seventies several experiments were begun to test whether or not a non-human primate could construct a sentence. Several species were involved in these various experiments including the chimpanzees Washoe and Nim, a gorilla named Koko, and later in the Eighties work began with a bonobo named Kanzi. While great progress was made in teaching these primates a vocabulary, it would be difficult to see any of these experiments as a success. And all of these projects raised important questions about the ethics of such experiments. [more inside]
"Good, big ideas about evolution are rare." Simon Ings of the Independent reviews "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human" by Richard Wrangham. (via)
In which a chimpanzee is shown reacting to sleight-of-hand on a Japanese television show. [SLYT. Overuse of sound effects.]
Apes do it. Birds do it. Even educated elephants do it. But can a dog do it? Can a dog make art? Meet Tillamook Cheddar, an adorable Jack Russell Terrier who, after 19 solo shows, has made more than $100,000 in sales of paintings like these. (I believe she did not choose the titles.) Opinions on her work vary. [more inside]
Human artist or ape artist? Six paintings, six chances to show your expertise or just guess correctly. (Previously) Hint inside. [more inside]
There is a remote part of the Congolese jungle, called the Bili forest, where local legend has long told of a breed of giant apes that eat lions, catch fish and howl at the moon. To his surprise Dutch researcher Cleve Hicks found them. In fact they are large chimps but they appear to have a number of behavioural differences from other groups seen in the wild. (More information from Wikipedia).
As two more villages are relocated to create reserves for Project Tiger in India, each family will be offered two hectares of land, a house and 100,000 rupees or approximately $2200. But is this a sustainable solution for anti poaching measures? At Ranthambhore tiger reserve in the backward district of Sawai Madhopur, poaching has been controlled but pressure on the park remains as long as the seven relocated villages are unable to find alternate sources of long term income and other resources. When seeking food and shelter, saving the tiger is the last thing on their minds. Witness the slaughtering of the rare gorilla in Congo for food recently until the rebels were convinced to stop. Local needs versus long term ecological preservation will continue to be issues unless alternate viable solutions can be found.
He's 74-years-old, which makes him the world's oldest primate. He was a movie star. He lives a comfortable life as an older retiree. In his spare time, he paints. In fact, if you like, he will paint a painting just for you, and the money you donate for it supports his primate sanctuary. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Cheeta.
We are because of others. We are born into this world with minds as naked as our bodies and we have to rely on others to feed, clothe us, and to teach us to think of ourselves as selves. The key is language -- grammatical speech and human culture build upon the brain's biological capacities to create a mind that is something different again than that with which we are born. We are conscious because we can speak to others and ourselves, because we can speak of ourselves to others and ourselves. Language gives us as individuals, memory, and as groups, culture, the social memory. Or so thought Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky, among others. Welcome to the the neuronaut's guide to the science of consciousness.
Recognition time for Bonzo? When I read The Ape and The Sushi master, it shook me. And others feel the same [link 1] way[link 2]. But I was still taken aback by the language in this story.