Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Zoo Atlanta and DreamWorks Animation Announce Panda Cub's New Name

/PRNewswire/ -- Officials at Zoo Atlanta and DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. (Nasdaq: DWA) have issued a joint announcement that the only giant panda cub born in the U.S. in 2010 has a name: Po. The name is a tribute to the lead character, Po the panda, in the upcoming DreamWorks Animation film, Kung Fu Panda 2, which will be distributed by Paramount Pictures starting on May 26, 2011.

The announcement was made this morning by representatives from Zoo Atlanta and DreamWorks Animation, the official sponsor of the 100 Day Giant Panda Cub Celebration and the naming of Po. Actor Jack Black, who voiced the iconic character of Po the panda in Kung Fu Panda – which grossed over $630 million at the worldwide box office – and who will reprise his role in the upcoming sequel, was present for the naming of the newborn panda cub.

"Today's announcement is the beginning of an amazing alliance between Zoo Atlanta and DreamWorks Animation. Our organizations share a commitment to giant panda conservation, particularly at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding," said Raymond B. King, President and CEO of Zoo Atlanta. "We are proud and honored to share this moment with Jack Black, who has already helped to bring the importance of saving this species to a new generation of conservationists."

Giant pandas are among the world's rarest mammals, with fewer than 1,600 believed to remain in the wild. The giant panda program at Zoo Atlanta supports conservation programs at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and in nature reserves in China.

In the Kung Fu Panda films, Po is an unlikely hero challenged by preconceived notions of what a kung fu warrior should be. Following the likeable but clumsy Po and his allies on a series of adventures, the films celebrate the power of self-worth and the ability of an individual to affect positive change.

These themes are equally fitting for the giant panda cub. He is an ambassador for his species, helping to draw attention to the plight of giant pandas in the wild. Born to Lun Lun on November 3, 2010, the 3-month-old now known as Po is already proving to be a great ambassador. Followed by thousands of fans on the world-famous PandaCam presented by EarthCam, the cub is expected to make his public debut in late March or early April. View the PandaCam at www.zooatlanta.org/pandacam.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Researchers examine how primates and humans cooperate to gain rewards

Humans often work together toward a common goal. Now, Georgia State University researchers and their colleagues have found that humans aren’t the only ones to work together for a bigger payoff.

They found that in primates such as chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys, the animals also cooperated in a game to test whether two individuals would aim for higher rewards at a higher risk.

The results were published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

As part of research investigating the development of economic decision making in humans, Sarah Brosnan, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State, and her partners, tested primates and humans by having them play the “Assurance” game.

The game involves two individuals working together to earn a high reward at a greater risk, called the “payoff dominant outcome,” or going for a lower risk, lower payoff reward, called the “risk dominant outcome.” In both cases, the chimpanzees and monkeys received fruit, while humans received money.

In this version of the game, neither humans nor other primates were given instructions, but learned the payoff structure as they played, leveling the playing field among the species.

The primates performed about the same as humans, but humans didn’t perform as well in this game as expected compared to results in the more typical game format, which uses instructions, Brosnan said. In addition, the results yielded other differences in how primates and humans perform in the game.

“Humans and capuchins may not make decisions in exactly the same way,” she said. “But capuchins seem to have the capacity to reach similar decisions as do humans. Bear in mind that only a fifth of the humans found the payoff dominant outcome.”

The researcher also found differences between chimpanzees, some of whom had been reared in a cognitively enriched environment from an early age and some of whom had been raised typically, Brosnan said. The former chimpanzees did far better than did the latter.

“This implies that rearing is important, which nobody disputes when it comes to humans, but as these results indicate is clearly the case for chimpanzees as well,” she said.

Brosnan and her colleagues are interested in the study of decision making and how it evolved in humans to better understand how humans developed complex economic systems, including such things as specialization and trade.

“These decisions about who to interact with and who to cooperate with are essential to human life,” she said. “Even in non-Western societies that are not as well tied into the global economic system, people are still making decisions about how to acquire and distribute resources in ways we don’t see in other species.

“Other species show evidence of some degree of these behaviors, but none of them have taken the extra step and gone on to specialization and then trade, which are one of the foundations of human economics,” Brosnan explained.

Researchers used the non-human primate facilities of Georgia State’s Language Research Center, as well as the Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research at the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Bastrop, Texas. Human research was done at the Economic Science Institute of Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

The team included Brosnan, Audrery Parrish, Michael J. Beran, Timothy Flemming, Lisa Heimbauer and Catherine F. Talbot of GSU; Susan P. Lambeth and Steven J. Schapiro of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; and Bart J. Wilson of the Economic Science Institute of Chapman University.

 The study is available online at www.pnas.org under the “Early Edition” section.

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As Frigid Temperatures Grip the U.S., The HSUS Reminds Pet Owners Not to Ship Your Pet by Air Unless Absolutely Necessary

Animal lovers were shocked this week by news accounts of the death of a kitten travelling by air from Utah to Connecticut on a Delta Airlines flight, in what were supposed to be climate controlled conditions. During this cold wave enveloping much of the country, The Humane Society of the United States reminds pet owners not to transport their beloved companions by air as cargo unless no other options exist.

As the nation’s largest animal protection organization, The HSUS regularly receives reports from pet owners that animals continue to be killed, injured, or lost on commercial flights each year. Our pets can face risks including excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, scarcity of oxygen, and rough handling when flown in the "cargo" area of a plane. The Department of Transportation tracks animal deaths in transit, but not how many die of cold or heat in cargo holds or elsewhere. Heat deaths are more commonly reported, but this year’s extreme winter weather may cause that number to climb.

If your pet must travel by air, your best option is to keep him on board with you. But if he must travel in the cargo hold, you can increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet by following these tips on The HSUS’ website.

 The airline industry treats live animals as baggage. In the past, airlines have neither responded appropriately to reports of animal injuries, nor provided accurate information to the public. All American-based airlines are now required to report any companion animal incidents that occur in the cargo holds of their planes, including any deaths, injuries, or losses of these pets. Many airlines have responded to this law by implementing restrictions on accepting pets as cargo. For a complete month-by-month breakdown of these animal incidents, visit the Department of Transportation's Air Travel Consumer Report.

 Before you make plans to travel with your pet, The HSUS suggests:

consider driving instead of flying if planning on bringing a pet on vacation. If this isn't possible, consider leaving your pet behind under the care of a pet sitter or boarding kennel.
Above all, when making travel decisions, consider what is best for your pet.

If you must transport your pet by air, your first decision is whether you can take him or her on board with you. If your pet is a cat or small dog, most airlines will allow you to take the animal on board for an additional fee. To find out about this option, call the airline well in advance of your flight; there are limits to the number of animals allowed in the cabin area.

When you contact the airline, be sure to find answers to these questions:

Does the airline allow you to take your cat or small dog on board with you?
If that option isn't available to you, does the airline have any restrictions on transporting your pet as cargo?
Does the airline have any special pet health and immunization requirements?
Does the airline require a specific type of carrier? Most airlines will accept either hard-sided carriers or soft-sided carriers, which may be more comfortable for your pet, but only certain brands of soft-sided carriers are acceptable to certain airlines.

The HSUS also urges air travelers not hesitate to complain if they witness the mishandling of any animal at any airport.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Georgia DNR Board Passes Resolution in Support of Investigating Whooping Crane Killing

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board passed a resolution January 27 supporting the investigation of the recent killing of three whooping cranes in Calhoun County, Ga.   Members of the Georgia DNR Board and the Georgia DNR Foundation also are contributing an additional $4,800 to the reward fund. This addition brings the total reward fund amount to$20,800.

“This generous contribution comes at a time when there are no real leads in the investigation,” said Philip Watt, DNR Board Chairman of the Wildlife Resources Committee. “We hope the additional funds will entice someone to come forth with new information that will help solve the case. We are proud to be able to show our support in this way.” 

The DNR Board resolution urges the Wildlife Resources Division to continue cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and to use “all available resources to investigate and prosecute the individual(s) responsible for killing the whooping cranes.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents are leading a joint investigation with Georgia DNR conservation rangers. The cranes were shot sometime before Dec. 30, 2010, and were discovered and reported by hunters. An examination by scientists at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory, it was determined that the birds had injuries consistent with gunshot wounds.

“The DNR Board is putting its money where its mouth is,” said Joe Hatfield, Vice Chairman of the Board’s Wildlife Resources Committee. “We will continue to monitor this case and help DNR provide all appropriate resources to help apprehend the individual or individuals who shot the cranes.”

Other recent contributions to the reward fund include $2,500 from The Environmental Resources Network (T.E.R.N.) and $1,000 from the Atlanta Audubon Society. The reward will be provided to the person or people who provide information leading to an arrest and successful prosecution of the perpetrator(s). T.E.R.N., is the friends group of DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section.

The cranes were part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership effort to reintroduce whooping cranes into the eastern United States. There are about 570 whooping cranes left in the world, 400 in the wild. This was the three crane’s first migration. They were banded and equipped with transmitters and were not part of the ultralight aircraft-led migration effort. Their identities were confirmed by recovery of their bands. The three cranes, 20-10, 24-10, and 28-10, were part of a group of five 2010 Direct Autumn Release cranes. According to Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership trackers, they had last been tracked in Hamilton County, Tenn., where they roosted on Dec. 10, 2010, with cranes 6-05, 6-09, and 38-09.

In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes are protected by state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Any information concerning the deaths of these cranes should be provided to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Terry Hasting at 404-763-7959 and/or Georgia Department of Natural Resources 24hr. TIP Hotline at 1-800-241-4113.

For more information about the reintroduction effort, visit http://www.bringbackthecranes.org.

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