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Study suggests gorillas form social bonds with distant relations
(findings suggest that human social systems stretch back to the common ancestor of humans and gorillas
Gorillas found to interact with extended family in a similar way to humans

Gorillas form social bonds with distant relations in a similar way to humans, new research suggests.

The study led by the University of Cambridge found “social tiers with striking parallels to traditional human societies”.

Their findings suggest that human social systems stretch back to the common ancestor of humans and gorillas, rather than arising from the "social brain" of hominins after diverging from other primates.

In the study, researchers used more than six years of data from two research sites in the Republic of Congo where they documented the social exchanges of hundreds of Western lowland gorillas.

Gorillas live in small family units consisting of a dominant male and several females with offspring, or as solitary male “bachelors”. Lead author Dr Robin Morrison used statistical algorithms to reveal patterns of interaction between family groups and individuals between data sets.

By analysing the frequency and length of “associations”, she found that beyond immediate family there was a tier of regular interaction - an average of 13 gorillas - that is similar to “dispersed extended family” in traditional human societies. For example aunts, cousins and grandparents.

Beyond that, a further tier of association involved an average of 39 gorillas, similar to an “aggregated group” that spends time together without necessarily being closely related.

"An analogy to early human populations might be a tribe or small settlement, like a village," said Morrison.

She also found that where dominant males (silverbacks) were half-siblings, they were more likely to be in the same “tribe”. More than 80 per cent of the close associations identified, however, were between more distantly related-or even apparently unrelated silverbacks.

"Females spend time in multiple groups throughout their lives, making it possible for males not closely related to grow up in the same natal group, similar to step-brothers," said Morrison. "The bonds that form may lead to these associations we see as adults."

The results are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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Wales to ban third party puppy and kitten sales

News Story 1
 The Welsh Government has said it will ban third party sales of puppies and kittens, after a consultation showed overwhelming public support.

A consultation in February received nearly 500 responses, most of whom called for greater action to improve the welfare of cats and dogs at all breeding premises.

Concerns were also raised about online sales, impulse buying, breeder accountability and illegal puppy imports.

A consultation will now be held on plans to implement a ban. Environment minister Lesley Griffiths said she will also revisit the current breeding regulations to improve welfare conditions.  

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WHO declares Congo Ebola outbreak an international health emergency

The World Health Organisation has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The move comes after a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in the DRC. The committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma - a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.

The committee also reinforced the need to protect the livelihoods of the people most affected by the outbreak by keeping transport routes and borders open.