Thursday, 31 May 2007

Primates and Climate change.

We are about Howler monkeys but we cannot ignore the impact of climate change on other primates. Scientist are telling us that the orangutan will be wiped out by the year 2025. This peril faces all primates. This article published today on BBC is an important warning that we MUST all heed.

Great apes 'facing climate peril'
Great apes are facing an "inevitable crisis" arising from climate change, a leading conservationist has warned.
Dr Richard Leakey said that growing pressure to switch from fossil fuels to biofuels could result in further destruction of the animals' habitats.
The chair of WildlifeDirect called for immediate action and proposed financial incentives to save forests from destruction as one possible solution.
He said: "Climate change will undoubtedly impact everything we know."
The implications for biodiversity are there for all to see
Dr Robert Leakey
The great apes - gorillas, chimps, bonobos and orangutans - are already under threat from habitat destruction, poaching, logging and disease.
The Great Apes Survival Project (Grasp), a United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) initiative, has warned that great apes are at risk of imminent extinction unless drastic action is taken.
Palm oils
In advance of a talk at the UK's Royal Geographical Society, Dr Leakey told journalists that climate threats now had to be added to the mix.
The former director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service said: "I am concerned about the pressures on the land as a result of changes to the climate, but also the pressures on the land in terms of people's reaction to climate change and the shift away from fossil fuels to biofuels."
He said that "great swathes" of forest had already been destroyed in South Asia to make way for palm oil plantations, and this had had a dramatic impact on orangutans, which currently number 50,000.
Palm oil is used in vegetable oil, soaps, shampoos, industrial substances, but it has also been proposed as an alternative to fossil fuel.
Dr Leakey said the growing pressure to turn to biofuels such as palm oil could place the great apes' habitat in further peril.
He added: "People shrug their shoulders and say what are poor countries to do if they cannot exploit their natural resources, and I can understand this, but it is not sustainable the way it is going."
There is also evidence that deforestation would further drive climate change itself by raising the amount of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Dr Leakey said.
New incentives
Dr Leakey suggested "biodiversity credits" could be a possible solution.
"Being paid for not cutting down indigenous forests and getting credit for that is a further step that builds on the idea of getting paid for planting new forests," he explained.
"It does seem that we cannot stop development, but it does also seem that perhaps we can stop development where critical species are threatened, and perhaps there could be a price added to that."
He said that there could be creative ways to solve the problems that climate change could bring, but added that it was crucial that action was taken now.
Dr Leakey told journalists: "Could the great apes go because of climate change? Yes. Possibly not within our lifetime, but what about in 100 or 200 years?
"Climate change is measurable and is happening at rate that is almost unprecedented from what we know in previous history, and the implications for biodiversity are there for all to see."
Richard Leakey is a palaeo-anthropologist, responsible for extensive fossil finds related to human evolution, and renowned Kenyan conservationist. His parents, Louis and Mary Leakey, were prominent palaeontologists, finding and excavating key sites around Africa.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Friday, 18 May 2007


I have read many reports about the expressionless faces of Howler Monkeys. I intend to upload a number of photographs which I think give the lie to those comments. Tell me what you think. The comment facility is there for you to use. This is a fun piece not to be taken too seriously. You could try to put a meaning to the expressions. This last picture shows Manina in a playful mood. He has stolen my hat and won't give it back.
Above that picture is Schatov at supper; he really enjoys his late night nosh.
Second from the top Sussy has just been introduced to an official from the Mayors office. She is not a bit impressed by 'Roja Rojita'.
And for the time being our last picture, the one at the top, is Totto and Sophie (left), enjoying a plate of peanuts.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

The Howlers monkeys digestive needs..

The drawings you see are a comparison between the stomach of a howler monkey (left) and a human.
Food is vital for life. It provides nutrients for development, maintenance, and reproduction, and is the source of energy that drives the chemical reactions occurring in every cell. However, most food, as it is initially procured, is not in a form suitable for use; it must first be broken down so that it can be transported through cell membranes.
The processes of breaking down food molecules via a system of both mechanical and chemical, is called digestion.

The processes involved in digestion, include, for example, food maceration and enzymatic activity, are common across all vertebrate animals. However, other features of a species gastrointestinal anatomy and digestive system are the result of adaptation to chemical, physical, and nutritional properties of the diet.
The interaction of anatomy, physiology, and ecology are extraordinarily.
complex. Indeed, ‘‘there is a complex interplay between physiology and ecology,
Regardless of this complexity, there is an obvious and apparent relationship between digestion and diet, so that one can be little understood without reference to the other.

Primate species display a diverse array of adaptations in the gut, including anatomical specializations in the stomach, caecum, and colon, as well
as an associated capacity to consume diets that are high in structural carbohydrates (fiber) and to detoxify plant secondary compounds to various degrees.
As a result, we can now evaluate why a primate consumes what it does and why it
might entirely avoid other foods.


The gastrointestinal tract, or alimentary canal, is essentially a continuous
tube running through the ventral body cavity and extending from the mouth
to the anus. The gastrointestinal system processes food via four major
activities: Ingestion, in which food is first procured and taken into the body;
digestion, in which food is broken down by both chemical and mechanical processes (including mastication);absorption, in which digested food is
passed to the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems for distribution to cells;
and defecation, in which indigestible products are eliminated from the
The lumen, or hollow core of the alimentary canal, is lined by a
layer of absorptive cells (mucosa), supported on the outside by smooth
muscle and connective tissue containing blood vessels. Differences in the
tissue structure of the wall result in the differentiation of the tract into its major recognizable components, including the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (cecum and colon).

Primate foods are composed of three major groups of nutrients: Proteins,
lipids (fats), and carbohydrates. In general, the primary chemical role of the
stomach is protein digestion, in which proteins are fragmented by the action
of pepsin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin.

Many plants defend themselves from animal feeding by arming their leaves and other parts with an array of chemical compounds. Because these compounds are the result of secondary processes involved in defense rather than in the primary metabolism that is important for basic processes such as reproduction and growth, they are collectively known as secondary metabolites.96 To date, approximately 12,000 secondary metabolites involved in plant-animal interactions have been identified. These compounds fall roughly into two broad categories: digestion inhibitors, which interfere with the efficiency with which an animal obtains nutrients and toxins; which are harmful to the animal in that they interfere with normal physiology.

Toxic compounds such as alkaloids and cyanogenic glycosides are typically absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and have a specific toxic
effect on the consumer. There are two major ways by which mammals
deal with toxic secondary metabolites, these being microbial activity and microsomal enzymes. In many herbivorous mammals with specialized stomachs (e.g., Colobinae), some toxic secondary metabolites—although certainly not all—can be broken down via a diverse bacterial and protozoan microflora supported in the anaerobic, alkaline stomach environment. Essentially, plant secondary compounds are degraded during fermentation before they are absorbed by the animal.

However, most primates have a fairly simple, acid stomach, and there is no
evidence to suggest that microbial detoxification can take place in an acid

Digestion of lipids occurs almost entirely in the small intestine.1 It is in the
digestion of carbohydrates, particularly complex carbohydrates, where
we see gastrointestinal specializations in primates and other mammals, especially in the stomach and large intestine.

In primates, as in other plant-eating vertebrates, digestion of structural carbohydrates is carried out by symbiotic microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of their hosts. In a process known as fermentation, cellulolytic bacteria degrade the structural components of plant cell walls. As a byproduct of this activity, the bacteria release volatile fatty acids, (VFAs) also known as short-chain fatty acids. The host animal uses these acids, among them acetic, propionic, and butyric acid, as readily available energy in the bloodstream or, ultimately, glucose storage in the liver.9,24 Other end products of While some invertebrates are known to contain the cellulose-digesting enzyme cellulase in their intestinal tracts, no vertebrate produces this enzyme. This is an intriguing fact, given that so many vertebrates, including primates, rely heavily on plant material as their main energy source.