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WebClawer: Chimps make a movie for the BBC; scientists work to recreate extinct, giant cattle; PetSmart employee fired for bringing dog to work

January 26, 2010 |  5:38 pm

Chimpcam

-- Not an April Fool's Day joke, we swear: The BBC has announced that it will air the first-ever movie shot entirely by chimpanzees this week. Primatologist Betsy Herrelko came up with the idea to turn apes into mini-Tarantinos; she spent a year and a half teaching 11 chimps from the Edinburgh Zoo how to use a specially-constructed piece of equipment called the Chimpcam (above). They used the Chimpcam to film what they saw in their enclosure; they were also given a video touch screen, with which they could select videos to watch. (The videos, if you're wondering, included footage of the room where their food is prepared at the zoo, as well as footage of their enclosure.) Chimps making movies -- that's all well and good, but can they write "Hamlet"?  (BBC)

-- A team of Italian scientists hopes to use modern technology to recreate an extinct species called the auroch, which resembled a giant cow weighing more than 2,000 pounds and standing more than 6 feet high at the withers. "We were able to [analyze] auroch DNA from preserved bone material and create a rough map of its genome that should allow us to breed animals nearly identical to aurochs," said Donato Matassino, the group's leader, who we're just going to assume has never seen "Jurassic Park." Aurochs were declared extinct in the 1600s, although German zoologists Heinz and Lutz Heck, working with the support of the Nazi regime, managed to create a smaller version of the huge bovines in the years leading up to World War II.  (Telegraph)

-- Everyone's favorite animal-loving Golden Girl, Betty White, received a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild this past weekend. The Times' chief celebrity-watchers, Christie D'Zurilla and Amy Kaufman, report that the actress (who's worked extensively on behalf of the L.A. Zoo and the Morris Animal Foundation, among other animal-centric causes) showed up at the SAG Awards in a dress with a provocatively high slit because, as she put it, "You've gotta use everything you possibly can." Spoken more like a Blanche than a Rose, don't you think? (Ministry of Gossip)

-- A former employee of a Seacaucus, N.J., PetSmart store says it was wrong of the company to fire him for bringing his dog to work. Eric Favetta, 31, was tapped to work an overnight shift; rather than leave his Belgian Malinois home alone, he brought the dog along with him. Favetta left the dog, Gizmo, at PetSmart's doggie day care facility. Two weeks later, he was fired for "theft of service," since he didn't pay for boarding while Gizmo was in the store. "In our eyes, our services business is huge, with our grooming and training and care. Those are viewed as sale items the same way items on the shelf are," PetSmart spokeswoman Jessica White said. "To use the facilities and not pay for it -- it falls under the same lines." Later, the company offered Favetta his job back; he decided to accept another position instead. Hmmm, wonder why? (Newark Star-Ledger)

-- When the Riverside County Sheriff's Department responded to a report of vandalism at a Coachella strip club earlier this month, the last thing (well, one of the last things) deputies expected was to learn that the culprit was a wayfaring goat. But that's just what they discovered when they checked the club's surveillance video, which showed the animal staring at its own reflection in two glass entry doors for a period of several hours before eventually ramming the doors repeatedly, causing $2,000 worth of damage. Asked for comment, area goat farmer Rachel Ledoux (whose own goats were not involved in the incident) explained that the animals typically only have two things on their minds: "Females and eating." Ladies, insert your own men-are-goats joke here. (The Desert Sun)

-- A puppy rescued from a 24-foot-deep well in Gorman on Sunday was described as cooperative (unlike another recently-rescued canine on many Angelenos' minds this week) by an L.A. County Fire Department spokesperson who commented on the effort to free it. "The dog was in good condition after being rescued and has been turned over to animal control," said Inspector Frederic Stowers. It's unclear how the puppy came to be trapped in the well or whether a group of famous musicians plans to sing a song in its honor.  (L.A. Now)

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A chimpanzee holds a camera at the Edinburgh Zoo.  Credit: Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images

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