1:50 PM, August 11, 2008

The anguished owners of a missing 42-year-old chimpanzee have called in exotic-animal trackers to help find it, the Associated Press reports.

Family friend Michael McCasland told the agency that the two experts are expected to arrive by Friday to give advice on how to locate Moe the chimp, who escaped June 27 from an animal refuge in Devore where he lived.

McCasland says Moe is still thought to be in the nearby San Bernardino National Forest, 50 miles east of Los Angeles, although searches by helicopters and dogs have yielded no leads.

Moe's owners, St. James and La Donna Davis of West Covina, raised Moe since he was a baby, toilet-training him and teaching him to eat with a knife and fork.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

10:16 AM, July 15, 2008

A hiker stranded over the weekend in the San Bernardino National Forest thought she saw a monkey in the mountains, but after further investigation, it's not Moe, the chimpanzee missing since last month, the Associated Press reports today:

Grace Hilario was hiking Friday when she became separated from her group. That afternoon she saw the silhouette of what she said appeared to be a dirty gray monkey weighing about 50 to 60 pounds.Moe_with_his_rescuers_in_the_70s

However, Moe is about twice the weight Hilario described and black in color. And the area where she was found is nearly on the other side of the San Bernardino National Forest, at least 20 miles from where Moe escaped June 27.

Jungle Exotics owner Joe Camp says Moe would have had to cross numerous highways to get there from his compound.

Still, volunteers will pay more attention to that area of the forest where Hilario was.

The 42-year-old Moe became a celebrity during the decades he lived in a couple's West Covina home. He is pictured here with the couple, LaDonna and St. James Davis, at their wedding in 1970.

For the record, Moe is an ape, not a monkey. And speaking of monkeys, if Hilario did see one, where did that animal come from?

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

8:56 AM, July 8, 2008

The search is still on for Moe the chimp, which escaped on June 27 from his cage at Jungle Exotics near Devore, but officials had no luck over the weekend. The San Bernardino Sun reports:

Michael McCasland, a spokesman for Moe's West Covina owners, said that a search for Moe on Sunday night turned up no new clues as to the chimpanzee's whereabouts.

"They got all the tools they need to track him," he said of the searchers.

McCasland said Moe has left behind "no traces, just no evidence of where he's at." This has made the search more difficult, he said.

There have been no confirmed sightings of the chimp since his escape. The weekend searchers followed up many leads on Moe, McCasland said, but all the tips turned out to be the tracks of a mule, dogs or other animals.

However, the Sun reports, a bizarre tip did come in during the weekend search:

Although the weekend search turned up no hard evidence of Moe's location, Arden Wiltshire of the San Bernardino County sheriff's office confirmed a report of a man in a monkey suit running in and out of traffic about 10 p.m. Sunday at a turnout near Lake Williams Road in Big Bear.

Authorities were sent out to investigate and found nothing.

"I have not talked to anyMoe_the_chimp_in_better_days_4body this morning on that," McCasland said on Monday regarding whether a report could have been a Moe sighting. "If it's something halfway credible, we would have already heard about it."

Moe lived with LaDonna and St. James Davis for more than 30 years in their West Covina home, when this picture was taken in the 1970s, until Moe was later removed from their home and placed in a sanctuary. The Davises spoke to the press on June 30 to lament his escape.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times

9:56 AM, July 1, 2008

Moe_the_chimp The Times' Bob Pool gives us the latest on the disappearance of Moe the chimp:

St. James Davis, who rescued the chimp from poachers in the 1960s, sat in a wheelchair and struggled to speak as he told of the hunt taking place above Jungle Exotics, which houses wild animals used in the movie and television industry.

It was Moe's fourth home since authorities removed him from the Davises' West Covina home after he mauled a police officer's hand and bit off a woman's fingertip in two 1998 incidents.

"From the helicopter they did find a couple of water holes up there," Davis said. "They did see three black bears. Moe's quite friendly with dogs and cats, but I don't know if a wolf or a bobcat or something comes up, what's going to happen. Hopefully he'll run away or get in a tree."

Davis and his wife met with reporters at lawyer Gloria Allred's Wilshire Boulevard office. She represented them in their earlier struggle to keep the chimp in their home.

So far the search has been a privately organized affair, although San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies and firefighters have joined in the hunt, according to LaDonna Davis, St. James' wife. A chartered helicopter has flown low over the San Bernardino National Forest in hopes of scaring the chimpanzee into the open.

There have been scattered reports of missing chickens and garden hoses turned on in the vicinity of the hunt -- but no solid evidence that Moe is to blame.

L.A. Unleashed will keep you posted on developments on the case that started last Friday.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times

11:24 PM, June 28, 2008

A well-known chimp named Moe -- whose chimp companions brutally attacked Moe's owner in 2005 -- is missing from the Devore wildlife facility where he lived, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department reports.

"I have a chimp missing. I don't know if he escaped or not," said Tom Betty, a supervisor with the Sheriff's Department. Betty told The Times on Saturday night that Moe was believed to have fled into the San Bernardino National Forest and was being sought by animal control officers.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin has more:

On Friday afternoon, the chimp featured in several news stories over the years, escaped from Jungle Exotics near Devore. On Saturday, San Bernardino County animal-control officers and volunteers were searching the heavily forested area, while a privately owned helicopter circled overhead.

Michael McCasland, who said he was a friend of the West Covina couple who raised the chimp, likened the search to looking for a missing child. "These 24 hours since he got away are crucial just like looking for a child," he said. "He has never escaped into the wild before and has no food or water out there." McCasland, who was at the scene Friday and Saturday, said Moe might have escaped into the San Bernardino National Forest after being spooked by a recent fire.

Read more Moe the chimp escapes from wildlife facility »

9:00 AM, June 21, 2008


We've highlighted people spending gobs on medical bills for their baby-boomer pets. Now the nation's zoos are entering a "zone of unknowns" as animals live longer than anyone expected, the Associated Press reports.

While animals in captivity living longer than their wild brethren is nothing new, as that gap in life expectancy increases -- partly due to better medical care -- there have been some adjustments.

The Santa Ana Zoo, for instance, is home to Moka, a colobus monkey pushing 27 years old, making him the second-oldest in the United States:

For Moka, old age has meant only a few minor changes. His perch has been lowered so he doesn't have to jump up to it. He gets regular X-rays to check for arthritis. And he tends to get access to warm areas during the winter.

But the aging population of America's zoos is raising many other simple –- but potentially daunting –- questions.

Do female gorillas, now frequently living into their 40s and 50s, experience menopause?

Can an aging lemur suffer from dementia?

Should an oldster be put down simply because he's old?

"How old is geriatric? How old do animals really live?" says Sharon Dewar, a spokeswoman for the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. "That's the million-dollar question."

The chimpanzee above, Fifi, shown celebrating her 60th birthday, was the matriarch of Sydney, Australia's Taronga Zoo until she died last year at age 61. A chimp's average lifespan in the wild is 45.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Mark Baker/Associated Press

10:10 AM, June 18, 2008

From the Associated Press

A_baby_chimp_clings_to_its_motherFor most folks, a nice hug and some sympathy can help a bit after we get pushed around. Turns out chimpanzees use hugs and kisses the same way. And it works.

Researchers studying people’s closest genetic relatives found that stress was reduced in chimps that were victims of aggression if a third chimp stepped in to offer consolation.

“Consolation usually took the form of a kiss or embrace,” said Dr. Orlaith N. Fraser of the Research Center in Evolutionary Anthropology and Paleoecology at Liverpool John Moores University in England.

“This is particularly interesting,” she said, because this behavior is rarely seen other than after a conflict. “If a kiss was used, the consoler would press his or her open mouth against the recipient’s body, usually on the top of the head or their back. An embrace consisted of the consoler wrapping one or both arms around the recipient.”

The result was a reduction of stress behavior such as scratching or self-grooming by the victim of aggression, Fraser and colleagues report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Frans de Waal of the Yerkes Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta said the study is important because it shows the relationship between consolation and stress reduction.

--Photo: Rob Griffith/Associated Press

Read more Chimps need hugs and kisses too »

3:46 PM, June 16, 2008


Although she has more than a half-century under her belt, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. The 74-year-old is still traveling the world doing acts of environmental good and is working on a new book.

Over the last 22 years, Goodall has traveled tirelessly, staying no more than three weeks in one place as she tries to educate Earth's top primates about environmentalism, inspire hope and get them to save their planet, The Times' Tami Abdollah writes in a Q&A in today's Calendar section:

Abdollah: Is your work still centered around or focused on chimpanzees?

Goodall: Not really. It's very, very important to me that we continue to study, that we do it in the right way, that there's enough money for it, that we try to protect those chimpanzees into the future by working with all the people living in poverty around the park and then hoping more and more of them will enable part of the land to regenerate so the chimps are no longer trapped as they are now; they're surrounded by cultivated fields. In five years, you get a 30-foot tree. So they're coming back, but you know, the villagers if they wanted could cut them down, there's nothing to stop them, except goodwill.

In the photo above, Goodall helps students plant a tree at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego.

-- Francisco Vara-Orta

Photo: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times

4:34 PM, June 9, 2008

Before you even get past the cover of the neatly organized and well-researched paperback, "America's Best Zoos", you may wonder: Why was the foreword written by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich?  "Long before I aspired to enter the field of politics, I wanted to be a zookeeper," wrote the once-strident voice of the right in a lengthy explanation of his love of zoos. (As a 10-year-old he lobbied the Harrisburg, Pa., City Council to open a zoo. And, no, he is not named for an amphibian. 'Newt' he explains is an Anglicized version of 'Knut.')

As befits a book extolling the wonders of zoos at a time when they are under frequent fire from animal welfare activists, Gingrich defends them as "as a modern-day Noah's Ark" offering haven from poaching and habitat destruction.

Glenda_the_gorillas_sniffs_at_some_The authors, Allen W. Nyhuis and Jon Wassner, self-described lifelong zoo lovers, paint a flattering picture of the Los Angeles Zoo, calling it "one of the most beautiful zoos in the country."  They single out the new gorilla exhibit, the chimpanzee and orangutan exhibits.  (The gorilla at right is one of ours.) They also correctly note that when the zoo gets its expected golden monkeys from China, it will be the only U.S. zoo to have them. The authors give a nice mention to the Oakland Zoo's well-respected elephant exhibit, one of the largest in the country.   

The book reviews 97 zoos across the country -- two-thirds of them in assessments of several pages each. In addition there is a nice primer on various animals -- and where to find them. And the book has Zagat-like appendices categorizing zoos according to which has the best exhibits of certain kinds of animals.

--Carla Hall

Photo: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times

12:17 PM, June 1, 2008

Sometimes it's best to refrain from commenting on a story and let the facts do the talking. We found this story on ABC NewsRadio:

Monkey business is clearly afoot in a Swiss zoo after a paternity test revealed one of its gorillas has effectively been cuckolded by a young pretender half his age.

Zookeepers in the northern city of Basel were shocked to discover that Kisoro, a 17-year-old gorilla, is not the father of little Chelewa; instead it is Viatu, another male who is just 9 years old.

The situation was "almost unbelievable," and the precocious Viatu has "broken all the rules that apply in gorilla communities," the zoo said in a statement. Normally only male gorillas aged 12 or older have the right to have sex with females in the tribe.

The facts came to light when the zoo carried out the test as part of the data it keeps on animals born in captivity.

The story reminds us of a little who-done-it that took place at the Los Angeles Zoo a few years ago. This tale involved some pregnant chimps. Go to the jump for the complete story.

Read more Some gorillas have some explaining to do »

12:43 PM, May 27, 2008

Animal_rights_activists_are_trying_Somehow, as we planned for Memorial Day weekend (hot dogs or chicken? Indy or Iron Man? "Living Lohan" or "Deadliest Catch"?)  we missed some of the most important animal news ever.

Austrian animal rights activists are fighting to get a 26-year-old chimpanzee legally declared a "person," and they say they have filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. The International Herald Tribune reports:

The Vienna-based Assn. Against Animal Factories insists the chimp needs that legal standing so a guardian can be appointed to look out for his interests — especially if the bankrupt animal shelter caring for him shuts down....

In January, Austria's Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that had rejected the activists' request to have a trustee appointed for the chimp. The high court ruled that under Austrian law, only people are entitled to have guardians.

The full name of the chimp, above, is Matthew Hiasl Pan. Last year, the shelter where he lived filed for bankruptcy protection.

(This all raises another question: Can a human be legally declared a chimp? We can offer up candidates if pressed.)

--  Alice Short

Photo: Lilli Strauss / Associated Press

3:04 PM, May 7, 2008

Think your pension is in peril? It could be worse, says Brenda Scott Royce. You could be a chimpanzee. Writing in the Huffington Post, she ponders the retirement of entertainers who have never voted in a SAG election:

Chimp2_2 Apes in showbiz have a short shelf life.

The average performing chimp begins his career around age 2. By 7 or 8, when he's no longer the tractable trainee he once was, he's put out to pasture.

Owners tend to not want to keep apes that have outlived their earning potential, and since apes can live into their 50s, that means they'll require decades of care after their careers end. And that care is expensive -- roughly $10,000 a year for a single ape. And while typically everyone involved with a film -- from cast and crew to producers, studios, distributors, investors and exhibitors -- makes money, nothing is put aside for the animals' future.

Royce is director of publications for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn. and editor of the zoo's magazine, Zoo View. She is also the author of two novels, "Monkey Love" and "Monkey Star."

--Alice Short

Photo: Bob Carey/Los Angeles Times

12:31 PM, April 16, 2008


A chimpanzee rests in the shade at the Ramat Gan Safari Park outside Tel Aviv, Israel, this week.

Photo: Ariel Schalit / Associated Press