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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

King Ape

Last year, new genetic tests comparing DNA from humans, chimps, gorillas and orangutans revealed striking similarities in the way chimps and humans evolve - which set them apart from the others.

The finding added further weight to a controversial proposal to scrap the long-used chimp genus
Pan and reclassify the animals as members of the human family.

The move would give chimps a new place in creation's pecking order alongside humans, the only survivor of the genus
Homo.

And now more fuel to the fire - the discovery of a tribe of chimpanzees in Senegal, Africa, that have been observed fashioning and then using wooden spears to hunt smaller primates...

"Researchers documented 22 cases of chimps fashioning tools to jab at smaller primates sheltering in cavities of hollow branches or tree trunks ... witnessed a chimpanzee extract a bushbaby with a spear."



This is a fascinating and yet disturbing new discovery. One wonders if the boundaries between chimps and humans are now just a matter of a few facial expressions and an upright backbone. They may not speak like we do, but just look at the list of similarities that we share with our ape cousins. They've already been documented hunting smaller monkeys, committing genocide and even torturing.

Many experts believe because of our own human impact on the Earth, that chimpanzees have reached the end of their evolutionary journey - but given these traits, and another million years or so, and of course taking us out of the equation, I am sure that chimps would go on to fill our shoes quite comfortably.

Theoretically it was only a million years or so in the past when one tribe of apes, outmaneuvered and out-competed by a dominant forest-dwelling chimpanzee ancestor, was forced to take to the open plains in search of new territory and stride out on their hind limbs...

The chimps were always Kings of the Forest, perfectly adapted to the more rigorous demands of surviving in this complex environment. I'm sure that there'll be further secrets to their success revealed in the years to come...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

In the family way...

I guess the time finally comes to everyone, when they must assume the reigns of responsibility.. and guide a new soul into this world. Well ladies and gentlemen, that time has finally caught up with me... I have become a grandfather.

Twinky has given birth to 3 kittens, amidst much panic and nervousness and commotion (coming mostly from Kristen and myself).

So this past week I have focussed my attention on the animal life that lives in my house...

Having never witnessed a cat giving birth before, it was a fascinating experience - and had its fair share of drama, as it turned out that a fourth kitten ultimately refused to enter the world, and we had to rush Twinky to the vet's for a Caesarian. Against all odds, the little thing was alive even though it was almost half a day overdue.

Unfortunately, being a runt, and as is the way of Nature, the little fella didn't make it, and I think because he was delivered artificially, Twinky never seemed to bond with him, so that lessened his chances even further.


But enough chatter - the main thing is that the other three are now a week old and growing rapidly - by their markings and some obvious deductions, we know who the wandering scoundrel is who got Twinky into trouble in the first place. Funnily enough, he disappeared from our neighbourhood as soon as the kids were born - typical...


Jelly, the grand matriarch of the family is not as thrilled as her humans at the prospect of these new arrivals, and is currently making herself invisible.

But she is also steadying herself to make the announcement in her own inimitable way...

Anyway, for the time being - BEHOLD.... the grandchildren!

A day old - the Three Musketeers


Instinct No.1 kicks in - GIMME FOOD!


Twinky - tired out


Instinct No.2 - SLEEPY TIME! (one week old)


At this stage their individual coat colours are coming through; their eyes are beginning to open, although still not focussed on anything, and their ear canals are still blocked - and yet for some reason we still whisper when we are around them...