Tag Archive | "chimpanzees"

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Consolation, Trust and Empathy in Animals

Posted on 23 April 2016 by Jerry

Recent research points to shared capabilities among all mammals for consolation, trust, and empathy. It appears from the various studies that animals from prairie voles, highly monogamous zebra finches that mimic the stress state of their partner, and chimps all make friends, trust, and empathize with others.

A research study reviewed in the Science magazine, January 22, 2016 issue showed that prairie voles (rodents) exhibit a consoling response when other voles (cage-mates) in their environment are showing stress. An abstract of the study said “Consolation behavior toward distressed others is common in humans and great apes, yet our ability to explore the biological mechanisms underlying this behavior is limited by its apparent absence in laboratory animals.” This study was conducted using laboratory animals.

The study goes on to observe that the prairie vole, “greatly increases partner-directed grooming toward familiar conspecifics (but not strangers) that have experienced an unobserved stressor, provide social buffering. Prairie voles also match the fear response, anxiety-related behaviors, and corticosterone increase of the stressed cage-mate, suggesting an empathy mechanism.”

Frans De Waal, PhD was a co-author of this study that was conducted at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He said, “Scientists have been reluctant to attribute empathy to animals, often assuming selfish motives. These explanations have never worked well for consolation behavior, however, which is why this study is so important.” Consolation behavior in the voles is when one animal experiences a calming contact with a distressed colleague.

Chimpanzees base their friendships on trust of a familiar animal. The Max Planck Institute conducted this study at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. It found that opposed to common wisdom, the Chimpanzee environment is not filled with aggression, conflict, competition and dominance.

Chimpanzees are given a choice of using a friendship or “trust rope” or a “no-trust rope” to access food. An article appearing in the January 15, 2016 Christian Science Monitor described the research by stating “The no-trust rope yields immediate access to food that the chimp doesn’t particularly like. But if the chimp pulls the trust rope, a box of high quality food – chimpanzee favorites like apple and bananas – moves to its partner. The partner eats half, but is then faced with a decision.

The article continues by stating “A ‘trustworthy’ chimp will send the other half of the food back to its partner, while an ‘untrustworthy’ chimp will keep the food for itself.” Chimps “were significantly more likely to share with friends. So friendship, like many supposedly human concepts, may be deeply rooted in evolutionary history. Individuals with friends live longer, have more children and [have] lower stress-levels.”

Yet another research effort looked at Zebra finches who mate for life and consequently have a very close partnership with with their mate. Research shows they enjoy a great sympathy between each other. For example, the research as reported in the December 11, 2015 issue of Science magazine showed that a female, only exposed to stress in the birdcall of her mate, would shift her physiological state to match her partner’s level of stress.

At the same time research into the human brain shows consistency in the physical reaction to a highly altruistic act. Research shows that empathy-based altruism is characterized by a connection from the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to the anterior insula (AI) that also invokes connectivity to the ventral striatum. This format in the brain always represents altruistic behavior.

The innate quality of caring for one another appears to cross all higher organisms from mammals to rodents to birds. Empathy and sympathy appear to be universal and something ingrained or genetic within everything. We need to realize this is an aspect of human beings that we need to accentuate. We should use these higher impulses as the standard to endorse a human being as having value. These are the impulses we should look for and reward in our leaders and ourselves.

Use the following links to gain additional information or access the original research that was used to write this article.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6271/375

http://esciencenews.com/articles/2016/01/21/discovery.consoling.behavior.prairie.voles.may.benefit.autism.research

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/350/6266/1371

https://www.mpg.de/9829733/chimpanzees-friendship-trust

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2016/0115/Chimps-form-friendships-based-on-trust-The-banana-sharing-test

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/01/humans-chimpanzees-trust-their-friends

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-chimpanzees-trust-friends-20160114-story.html

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/inkfish/2016/01/05/female-finches-get-stressed-just-hearing-voice-stressed-mate/#.VxKaehHSalU

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3388787/Birds-suffer-marital-strife-Female-zebra-finches-worked-hear-calls-stressed-mate.html

 

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It is Time for Animals to Have Rights

Posted on 03 September 2015 by Jerry

Charles Darwin said, “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties…The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.” (see Beyond Animal, Ego and Time page 63) With those words Darwin foreshadowed the knowledge we would gain from the many experiments with animals we’ve conducted over the years. Calls for further experiments to end are justified by what we now know. In fact, it is time we granted additional rights to proven sentient animals.

“As of 14 September, no U.S. labs will be conducting invasive studies on chimps”, so reads the subtitle of an article appearing in the August 21, 2015 issue of Science magazine. This article announced there have been no permits filed anywhere in the U.S. to conduct invasive research on chimpanzees. This represents a new rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Animals who have passed the mirror and mark tests and consequently have self-recognition, have been gaining rights in various countries over the years.   Great Britain was the first government to ban experimentation on chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. In 1999, New Zealand’s parliament gave apes legal protection from animal experimentation.

But the first country to bestow full freedom for these animals was the Spanish parliament that passed a resolution in 2008 that gave great apes the right to life and freedom. This was a result of work by the Great Apes Project that was founded by Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri.

In 2013 India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests forbade the keeping of captive dolphins for public entertainment anywhere in the country. The Ministry is quoted as stating, “Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and its morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose.”

In late 2014 an orangutan in an Argentine zoo was transferred to a sanctuary after an Argentine court gave the ape a “non-human person” status. This was in response to a habeas corpus petition that was filed by the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) that took the position the ape had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object. The orangutan that had been in captivity since it was born in a German zoo was sent to live out its days in a wildlife sanctuary in Brazil.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Great Apes Project, Peter Singer, Paola Cavalieri, and the Nonhuman Rights Project founded by Steven Wise, who recently brought a habeas corpus writ for two chimpanzees that was denied in the U.S., have long been battling for the rights of these animals. Films such as the award winning “The Cove” have documented outright animal cruelty perpetrated on these sentient animals.

It is time that U.S. granted “non-human personhood” rights to these animals that have innate self-recognition. This includes all great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos), all elephants, and all breeds of cetaceans (porpoises and dolphins). I would add a family of birds, the Corvids (crows, ravens, and jays) as self-aware and deserving of rights.

The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forest has provided us a good starting point. Their Declaration on cetaceans (porpoises and dolphins) should be applied to all sentient animals worldwide. They offer declarations that in an article in the July 30, 2013 issue of the Daily Kos are referred to as follows. They state, “Unlike…positive rights, such as the ‘right’ to education or health care, the animal right is, at bottom, a right to be left alone. It does not call for government to tax us in order to provide animals with food, shelter, and veterinary care. It only requires us to stop killing them and making them suffer.”

Their Declarations are as follows and should be recognized by local and international laws:

  1. Every individual animal granted rights should have the right to life.
  2. No sentient animal should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
  3. All of these animals have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
  4. None of these animals is the property of any state, corporation, human group or individual.
  5. All of these animals have the right to the protection of a natural environment.
  6. All of these animals have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
  7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.

Of course there should be a reasonable amount of time for zoos, entertainment parks, and researchers to find substitutes in their operations for these animals. In many respects these animals have been prized for their very intellect and self-awareness. After all it is their trainability that has made them so highly valued.

We need to once and for all recognize their legal right to exist and be left alone.   Indeed we should protect them from the human beings that are barely their betters. If this happens within the big established countries, all others will follow. Write your congresspersons, senators and tell all others it is time we made these rights official.

Use the following articles to gain additional information or access the source documents used in this writing.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6250/777.summary?sid=19a8e1ee-158f-45e8-af28-17f52bc6fa59

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jun/26/humanrights.animalwelfare

http://www.wired.com/2014/12/orangutan-personhood/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/21/us-argentina-orangutan-iduskbn0jz0q620141221

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/30/1226634/-india-declares-dolphins-non-human-persons-dolphin-shows-banned#

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-ropeik/humans-or-non-human-anima_b_8052124.html

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/non-human-persons-animal-rights-090000255.html

http://science.time.com/2013/12/02/chimps-human-rights-lawsuit/

http://condofire.com/2015/05/22/ted-x-steven-wise-on-why-chimps-should-have-legal-person-status-non-human-rights-project/

http://www.lifenews.com/2013/02/04/transhumanism-pushing-rights-for-non-human-persons/

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Monkeys/Mammals Are Smarter Than We Thought

Posted on 19 July 2015 by Jerry

It has been said for years that only great apes (but not gorillas) are self aware as proven by their passing the mirror and mark tests (read Beyond Animal, Ego and Time).  But now other monkeys, especially rhesus monkeys, are showing they can be taught to recognize themselves in a mirror.  This means they can be self aware if trained to be so.  While we don’t know if the capability in monkeys is age dependent, we do know the human being develops the ability to recognize itself at about two years of age.

It has also proven true that once these rhesus monkeys are taught self-recognition when they look in a mirror, they explore other parts of their bodies they don’t normally see.  For many years, mirror self-recognition has been a mark of higher intelligence in humans.  With this new knowledge about monkeys, we will have to change our views of our monkey brethren and ourselves.

In addition it has been shown that monkeys in the wild can teach themselves new skills by watching videotapes of other monkeys performing desired tasks.  While this appears to be another demonstration of copying behavior, “monkey see, monkey do”, researchers indicate this is the first time video tapes have been used for teaching purposes outside the laboratory.

An array of recent studies show that all mammals share a need to have close friends they can count on in difficult times.  These results generalize for humans that friendships are essential to ongoing health and are key to a helping hand when we really need it.

An April 7, 2012 article in Science News quotes Catherine Crockford of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who stated “Knowing this about mammals is sort of a reminder to us, that we can eat as much good food as we want or have as much money as we want, but if we don’t have at least one or two close relationships that we can depend on, life is going to be more difficult for us.”

This is true for all sorts of animals who have shown they will go outside familial relationships to build alliances with other animals.  While this is true for humans, it also includes chimps and all kinds of monkeys.  Beyond chimps, we can see this behavior from female rhesus macaques, baboons, and bonobos.  We see reciprocal grooming, help protecting young animals from pressure or threat from male animals, and the hormone oxytocin as common links that create this bonding.  This type of cooperation stretches to female horses, African elephants, dolphins, and hyenas.

These developments and new knowledge should cause us to reexamine our relationships with others.  We should reach out to others to create the unions described for our own betterment.  We also should realize that creating these types of alliances are ingrained and hereditary amongst all mammals.   These insights give us knowledge of the bonds that are possible with our own kind all over the world.

Use the following links to obtain additional information or access original documents used as background for this article.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150108130047.htm

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/10/9/20140439

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v513/n7517/full/513146a.html

http://www.sciencenews.org/article/furry-friends-forever

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Ongoing Battle For Sentient Animals

Posted on 12 February 2014 by Jerry

Researchers have identified a group of animals that have greater intellectual and emotional faculties, for example human beings, elephants, porpoises, great apes, and a family of birds known as Corvids.  (See Beyond Animal, Ego and Time Chapter 6, Human Uniqueness).  Society tries to protect human beings while some animal activists try to protect these other species, more lately the great apes.

After considerable progress, activists are pleased they’ve all but stopped experimentation on great apes in the U.S.   Recall the National Institute of Health (NIH) ended the use of chimpanzees in NIH funded research laboratories.  It has retired the majority of its 360 chimps used in medical research.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed making all wild and domesticated chimpanzees subject to the terms of the Endangered Species Act.  Although skirmishes continue in the U.S. the public pressure remains.

The situation in the European Union (EU) is marked by continuing controversy.  The EU issued a directive regarding medical research using non-human primates like chimpanzees.  While the 2010 EU directive was thought to give balance to the issues of minimum animal welfare, intensity of pain to be inflicted and ended most research involving great apes, it contained a provision that explicitly allowed ongoing research with great apes.  It said that research could continue if researchers could not use any other species of animal.

Activists perceived this was somewhat of a loss with EU governance groups and have now redirected their efforts to the local political level.  The EU directive required member states to enact these rules by the start of 2013.  It also said these states could not ‘gold-plate’ the regulations by making the state’s law stricter than the EU directive.  Activists have delayed adoption of the directive in several states and are getting cities and municipalities to pass new restrictive laws and regulations to defeat the spirit of the directive at the local level.

In addition there is a petition that began to be circulated in the EU in November of 2012 that already has over a million signatures.  These signatures are being validated.  If they prove genuine, the European Commission and Parliament must hold hearings.   This would lead to another round of open and public debate on the issues.

Now another frontier has been opened up in the saga to protect chimps and great apes in the U.S.   A group called the Non Human Rights Project has filed court suits looking to free four chimps from their captivity.  The intent is to acquire “legal personhood” for these animals.  While New York lower courts denied the suits, they are collectively on appeal.

An article entitled Lawsuits Seek ‘Personhood’ for Chimpanzees in the December 2013 issue of Science magazine identifies Boston attorney, Steven Wise, as one of the people leading the charge.   “In 1993, Wise attempted to sue on behalf of a dolphin that had been transferred to a Navy facility, but the judge ruled that, as nonpersons, animals don’t have the legal “standing” to sue.  (More recently, a federal judge dismissed a 2011 lawsuit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals when it tried to argue that Sea World had violated the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by keeping orcas as “slaves.”).”

It is doubtful American courts will grant ‘personhood’ to nonhuman primates anytime soon.  These efforts however, maintain the pressure on society to recognize there are species of animals that are much closer and have similar cognitive and emotional capabilities to humans.  This should lead to greater adoption of laws and regulations that at least create new categories of rules to take their awareness into account.

Use the following links to obtain more information or access the source documents used to prepare this posting.

http://www.nature.com/news/biomedicine-the-changing-face-of-primate-research-1.14645

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6163/1154.summary?sid=3efaff36-1beb-48fc-b483-465cc7f49507

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/12/chimpanzee-personhood-nonhuman-right/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/where-do-nonhuman-mammals-fit-in-our-moral-hierarchy/

http://science.time.com/2013/12/10/courts-say-chimps-arent-people/

 

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“Bird Brain” Not an Insult, Chimps Freed

Posted on 23 August 2013 by Jerry

Calling someone “bird brained” used to be an insult but that is changing. Although their observed physical reactions are the same, new brain PET scans of birds demonstrate crows react differently when viewing various threats.  In an experiment birds were injected with a die that left traces of brain usage, they were shown various threats, anesthetized and given PET scans to see which areas of their brain had been activated.  When watching a researcher wearing a mask sitting with a dead crow in his lap they activated their hippocampus and cerebellum, the learning and memory areas of their brains.  This was different from their reaction to seeing a hawk, a traditional threat.

Researchers believe the differences came from the bird’s intent.  John Marzluff, a wildlife biologist at the University of Washington in an article appearing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B when discussing the masked person with a crow in his lap said, “The crow wasn’t just responding to a danger when he was watching you.  He was learning the features of your masked face.  That’s why we think his hippocampus was activated.”  This and other characteristics of sentience have prompted behavioral researchers to call crows, belonging to the Corvid family, “feathered apes”.

As reported in a July 2013 issue of PLOS ONE, a team led by Alice Auersperg at the University of Vienna demonstrated that captive cockatoos were capable of sequential step-wise problem solving.  In an experiment, when confronted with a series of five locks that had to be unlocked to allow a bird to get to a visible treat, all ten birds figured out the solution to this sequential problem and successfully adjusted their behavior when the locks were sequenced in a different order or removed entirely.

Other research showed that New Caledonian crows share the same capabilities as ravens, African gray parrots and keas (a New Zealand parrot), all of which can all solve the problem of getting a treat hanging out of reach from a perch using the same stepwise method.  The article previously mentioned in the Proceeding of the Royal Society B described the experiment and said “They pull up the string with their beak, then step on the segment with their feet, freeing their beak to pull up more of the string, and so on, until they reach the treat.”

This article also references a 2004 report where an international team of neurobiologists and ornithologists stated “the brains of birds have structure, including an advanced forebrain, that are analogous to those of mammals.”  Once again the research is expanding the scope of animals and birds that have sophisticated problem-solving intellect.  We have been slow to learn the lesson that we are not the only animals that can think the way we do or feel the complex emotions we feel.

There is an exceptional article that appeared in the July 2013 issue of Scientific American entitled When Animals Mourn that describes research indicating that we share our mourning the death of one of our kind with dolphins, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, cats and mallard ducks.   This speaks to the widespread nature of love and mourning in the animal kingdom.

Turning to the role of chimpanzees, the closest human relatives with which we share 98% of our DNA, it was predicted in an earlier posting on this blog (see NIH Moves Chimps From Chumps to Champs in December of 2011) that is was clear the National Institute of Health (NIH) would progressively end the use of chimpanzees in NIH funded research laboratories in the U.S.  The NIH has now announced the agency will retire the majority of its 360 chimps used for medical research.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed making all chimpanzees, wild and domesticated, subject to the terms of the Endangered Species Act.

This means almost a complete end to what has been one of our most abusive behaviors.  Many people have come to decry the pain and suffering we have inflicted on these sensitive animals.  Research methods and alternatives now exist to make use of chimpanzees in medical experiments completely unnecessary and a thing of the past.  This represents meaningful progress for the human species.

Use the following links to obtain more information and/or see source documents:

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1765/20131046.abstract

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2f10.1371%2fjournal.pone.0068979

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6141/22.summary

http://scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=when-animals-mourn

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6141/17.summary

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/350936/description/chimps_in_captivity_may_soon_join_endangered_specief_list

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