[monkeywire] Apes to Name Neighboring Trumpet Swans

Rina Majmudar rinamajmudar at gmail.com
Wed Apr 4 13:00:18 EDT 2007


Apes to Name Neighboring Trumpet Swans

By NAFEESA SYEED, Associated Press WriterWed Apr 4, 7:57 AM ET

The eight bonobos at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa howled Tuesday as they
watched two trumpeter swans dip into a lake for the first time. Who can
blame them? Not only will the apes get new neighbors, they'll get a chance
to name the rare birds. "They were very excited," said scientist Karyl
Swartz. "It's something new in their environment."

Department of Natural Resources officials released the white swans as part
of a restoration project that places birds to nest and produce offspring
that are then released into the wild.

Trumpeter swans are America's largest waterfowl, weighing up to 35 pounds
with an 8-foot wingspan. They are Iowa's only native nesting swan.

Once common across much of the continent, they were hunted for their
feathers to near extinction by the late 1800s. The swans now have protected
status, and their population has grown with help from nesting projects.

The Great Ape Trust's grounds include 40 acres of lakes and wetlands, making
it a perfect spot for the swans. And the birds will give the bonobos at the
trust an interesting distraction.

"They're going to be curious about what's going on down here," Swartz said.
"They monitor their environment closely."

Bonobos walk on two legs and are the most humanlike in appearance of the
great apes. They have sophisticated language skills, a trait they'll
demonstrate when asked to name the swans.

Swartz said they'll either use a board that has symbols the apes associate
with objects or choose names from a list researchers provide. The apes
already use the board to communicate with humans to identify things like
location, food and color.

Swartz said after observing the swans, the bonobos could pick a name that
they think reflects the birds' behavior. They'll also get photos of the
swans to carry around. She said the apes can recognize gender, with the help
of a tag collar around the male swan's neck.

The bonobos live at the 230-acre research center with other apes, including
chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Scientists at the center study ape
intelligence and promote conservation of apes in their natural habitats in
places like Indonesia and Uganda.

Benjamin Beck, Great Ape Trust's conservation director, said the research
center was looking for ways to help in local wildlife programs.

"It ties in so perfectly with so many of our conservation programs around
the world," he said.

Beck said the swans feed on invertebrates like spiders and crickets, but the
staff will also give them chicken mash and cracked corn daily.

The nesting pairs can't fly away, because their primary feathers are

Ron Andrews, who coordinates the Department of Natural Resources' trumpeter
swan restoration program, said there are 50 pairs in Iowa whose offspring
are released into the wild.

The trust's two swans will start nesting in May and hatching will likely
occur in June. By October the offspring will start learning to fly and
within a year they'll be released.

Andrews said the agency has released about 750 swans to the wild since 1995.

"The public's powerful passion propels the project forward," Andrews said.
"We're excited about the new state we're at right n

On 4/4/07, monkeywire-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
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