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WebClawer: Elephant gets a new prosthetic leg, monkeys parent like people, angry owl gets even

March 10, 2009 |  8:25 pm

Rhesus macaque monkeys From monkeys to elephants to belligerent owls, it's a big day for animal news:

-- We're finding out all over the place how similar apes and monkeys are to people.  First Santino the chimp showed researchers that apes, like humans, can carry out plans.  Now scientists are saying that monkeys are more likely to feed their offspring if they notice their crying annoys other nearby monkeys.  Researchers from Roehampton University in London observed 11 female rhesus monkeys on an island called "monkey island" off the coast of Puerto Rico.  "Human studies have shown parents are much more likely to give in to a child's temper tantrum when it is in public rather than private.  We have shown for the first time that similar differences occur in rhesus monkeys," Dr. Stuart Semple, who led the study, explained.  "Mothers became nervous and agitated if high-risk onlookers were around and were twice as likely to provide access to the nipple.  Children's temper tantrums seem to be an evolutionary behaviour handed down from our ancestors with a constant conflict going on between mothers and their infants who are always looking for more."  Telegraph

-- Three-year-old Asian elephant Mosha lost part of her leg when she stepped on a land mine when she was seven months old.  She was brought to the Friends of the Asian Elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand, where staff initially worried she might die.  She refused to eat and was rejected by the sanctuary's other elephants.  Then Dr. Therdchai Jivacate, a specialist who works with human amputees, had an idea: Why not fit Mosha with a prosthetic leg?  "When Mosha first saw her artificial leg she was scared of it," a keeper recalled.  "But as soon as the doctors put it on and she could put some weight on it, she didn't want to let them take it off."  Mosha recently received a new prosthetic after outgrowing the old one; it's made of plastic, metal and sawdust and allows her to comfortably rest her weight.  The FAE sanctuary says many elephants are injured by land mines annually.   BBC

-- A Joint Terrorism Task Force including the FBI, the LAPD, the LAFD, the UCLA Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating the "suspicious arson" last weekend of a  vehicle owned by a UCLA neuroscientist.  The militant animal rights organization Animal Liberation Front posted a message on its website from a group claiming responsibility for the incident, which caused no injuries.  The UCLA professor, who was not identified, researches treatments for schizophrenia, drug addiction and other disorders.  UCLA is offering a $25,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.  L.A. Times

-- Over the past three weeks, at least eight cross-country skiers and several dogs in Bangor, Maine have been attacked by an "ornery, territorial" great horned owl.  The owl swoops down on its unsuspecting victims with talons outstretched -- and smacks them on the head.  It's caused small lacerations but none needing stitches.  Charlie Todd, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, says the great horned owl is "the boldest nocturnal raptor and the one that has the best reputation for the occasionally bizarre."  MSNBC

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Rhesus monkeys -- more like humans than we thought? Credit: Bernard Castelein / Oxford University Press

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