A news site about animals

Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Own?

An argument is brewing between British photographer David Slater and the folks at Wikimedia over who owns the rights to a photo a black macaque monkey took with Slater’s equipment.  The website says the famous photo should be freely distributed, because it believes the animal’s self-portrait isn’t bound by copyright law.  The man who owns the camera equipment feels differently.

This 2011 image captured by a cheeky black macaque after turning the tables on a photographer who left his camera unmanned has ignited a debate over who owns the photo.

The dispute stems from 2011, when Slater’s wildlife photography field trip to Indonesia produced a striking image of a smiling crested black macaque; another image shows it holding the camera. The story went viral, with Slater explaining that a group of macaques had taken over his equipment for a bit during the three days he spent in their company.


As he told The Telegraph back then, ”one of them must have accidentally knocked the camera and set it off because the sound caused a bit of a frenzy.  At first there was a lot of grimacing with their teeth showing because it was probably the first time they had ever seen a reflection. They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button.”


Slater added that the primates took hundreds of photos, most of them out of focus. By far the most famous of them was the grinning female macaque’s “selfie” that was then licensed for use by many media outlets.


The Telegraph gave us an update on the story this week, saying Wikimedia had refused to change the image’s open-copyright classification. Slater tells the newspaper that he went through a great deal of effort and money to get the photo, noting that he traveled to the area and set up the camera.

“That trip cost me about £2,000 for that monkey shot,” he says. “Not to mention the £5,000 of equipment I carried, the insurance, the computer stuff I used to process the images.”


The folks at Wikimedia don’t agree that Slater is the photo’s author, and they refused his request to remove the image from the Wikimedia Commons section for open-source material.


Perhaps you’re thinking that if Slater doesn’t own the photo’s copyright, then the monkey does. But as GigaOM reports, “the editors at Wikimedia (which manages the library of more than 22 million images and videos associated with the open-source encyclopedia) rejected the photographer’s demands because they believe that no one holds the copyright. A monkey can’t hold the rights to an image, or anything else, for that matter, because they aren’t human, and therefore don’t have the legal standing required to do so.”


Slater notes that a court case might be the only way to resolve the authorship and ownership issues. If that occurs, it’s unlikely that the macaque would be represented in the proceedings, or in the debate its brief career as a photographer has set off.


Happy Monkday :_)

Monkeys Do Advanced Math

Rhesus monkeys are able to perform math at an advanced level, reports a study this week from Harvard Medical Medical school. Monkeys can use symbols to add: a finding that sheds light on the evolutionary origins of math.

The monkeys were able to determine a greater value for food rewards (water, juice or orange soda) after learning to recognize numerals 0 to 9 and 16 letters. 


Humans possess a sophisticated combination of mathematical capabilities unmatched in the animal kingdom. Still, there is increasing evidence that at least some of these abilities are shared with other species. For instance, many animals can figure out which of two clusters of dots is larger or smaller.


To see how far back more advanced capabilities such as addition might go, scientists focused on somewhat distant relatives of humans: rhesus monkeys. While the ancestors of chimpanzees —humanity’s closest living relatives — diverged from humans about 6 million years ago, humans and rhesus monkeys parted ways roughly 25 million years ago. Both animals and humans can estimate how many items there are in a group, and the precision of these estimates decreases the more items there are.


The scientists taught three rhesus monkeys the values of 26 distinct symbols — the 10 Arabic numerals, and 16 letters. Each symbol was associated with zero to 25 drops of a reward of water, juice or orange soda. Given the choice of two different symbols, the monkeys chose the symbol that represented the larger reward with up to 90 percent accuracy. This suggested the monkeys learned to distinguish the symbols and assign them specific values, Livingstone said.


“The monkeys want the most of whatever is out there, and this is just one of many ways to figure out the best way to get the most,” she said.


The researchers then showed the monkeys pairs of symbols that yielded a reward equal to the added value of the symbols. The monkeys learned to add the values represented by the pairs of symbols to maximize their reward.


“They turned out to be like us — more accurate when values were represented by symbols than by the number of dots,” Livingstone said. “It tells us what good symbols are.”

To confirm the monkeys were performing a calculation and not just memorizing the value of each pair of symbols, the scientists next trained the monkeys to recognize another set of 26 symbols, each made of different clusters of four or five squares. The monkeys immediately applied their ability to add to these new symbols. The monkeys showed less accuracy with these new symbols than with the previous symbols, presumably because they were less familiar with the new symbols, Livingstone said.


“The monkeys did not memorize the addition of pairs of numerals; they just fairly accurately combined two symbols,” Livingstone said. The scientists detailed their findings online today (April 21) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


In future studies with the monkeys, “we will ask whether they can learn to multiply,” Livingstone said. Such research could shed more light on how the monkeys think about numbers.


Happy Monkday :_)


Ode to a Pocket Monkey

O Pygmy Marmoset,
O Pocket Monkey,
Your face full of fluff
cannot hide your sweet smile,
as I anthropomorphisize you
and aggrandize your small stuff.


Your cute little paws,
All I hear are d’awws,
I drown in your big eyes of black.
What do you see,
my pocket monkey?
Don’t worry ’cause I’ve got your back.















Happy Monkday :_)

Orangutan See, Orangutan Do

Located in the Tanjung Puting Reserve in Central Borneo (Kalimantan Tengah), Camp Leakey is a research facility for native orangutans.  The biologists don’t try to train the primates, they observe them while providing safety, food, and shelter, and let the ‘rangs live and let live.  The orangutans, however, observe the humans, and have learned some behavior from them, like rowing and perhaps the most surprising: doing laundry.  Watch the video to learn more!


Happy Monk(Ape)day :_)

Happy World Orangutan Day!

Happy World Orangutan Day, everybody, the first of its kind.  This new holiday is set to create awareness and drum up support for the conservation of the endangered orange ape, and to recognize the most iconic victim of the palm oil industry.

From 1992-2000, the population of the Sumatran orangutan declined by more than 50% and only an estimated 7,000 animals are left in the wild. Its relative, the Bornean orangutan population fell nearly 43 % in the past decade and estimates place their population at about 45,000 animals. Since the last population estimates were done, deforestation rates have continued to climb.

If you want to show some Facebook support, here’s the link to the World Orangutan Day! event.  If you wish to make a donation, you can at the official web site on  August 19th to let the people working in orangutan rescues know we truly appreciate what they are doing!

Happy Monk(Ape)day :_)