Newsletter June 2017

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 June 2017

Office Cats and Other Animal Employees

Do you ever wish you could cuddle with a cat while you’re stressed out at work? This Japanese firm is taking that longing seriously by implementing their very own office cat: a cat to help employees with stress during the workday. Ferray, an IT firm in Tokyo, is home to nine cats that eat, sleep and wander freely around the office. The office cat policy was initiated in 2000 by employee request. It began as a policy allowing employees to bring their cats to work. However, later, the firm began paying ¥5,000 per month to employees who rescued a cat. 

Other Japanese soon followed, allowing more and more animals into the workplace in order to help reduce stress and anxiety. Two goats were hired by Pasona Group in 2011 as full-time employees for healing purposes. Later, Pasona Group also hired two alpacas to expand their animal division. Additionally, an Old English Sheepdog named Candy works as a “greeting and healing ambassador” at Oracle Japan. Candy is the fourth office dog to be employed by Oracle Japan, and has her own Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Many agree that allowing pets in the workplace improves morale, leading to more creative and open working environments. This also places an emphasis on the employees’ experience at work, creating a more desirable workplace. It can help improve work-life balance and reduce stress; this in turn leads to more productive employees, a win-win situation. Pets also allow employees to be more focused, and create the added benefit of saving on doggy day-care. Additionally, allowing pets in the workplace alleviates the need to return home and let your dog out, increasing employee willingness to stay late.

Pets can also create a better sense of community and bonding within an office, helping to foster and maintain good working relationships between employees. Many employers use strict pet policies in order to keep workplace pets manageable. For example, in some cases, employees must sign up to bring their dog on a given day, and there can be no more than three dogs in the office at a time. Offices generally expect visiting animals to be housebroken and relatively quiet to avoid unnecessary distraction. 

However, there are some instances where pets can be a negative addition to a work environment. For example, if there are employees with allergies or a fear of animals, it wouldn’t be fair to allow those animals in the office. Furthermore, if the workplace involves a laboratory or any kind of food preparation, it would be a health hazard to have a shedding animal. The same goes for any workplace that would create a safety hazard to the animal such as a construction site. Lastly, if the animal would be too distracting or time consuming, and would curb productivity, it wouldn’t make sense for it to stay in the office. However, when good judgment is used, there are many cases where animals can live happily in offices with their owners.

Many employees have commented on the soothing effect of having animals in the office. Being surrounded by sleeping cats or loving dogs makes a world of difference to a stressed out workaholic sitting at a computer all day. Though cats can get in the way by walking on the keyboard or accidentally shutting down a computer, the majority of employees wouldn’t trade them for the world. 

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Beautiful Little Monkey

If you ever venture into the upper amazon forests of South America (Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Columbia), you just might run into a few Callimico Monkeys. You may or may not agree to the translation of their name which translates from Spanish to English as “beautiful little monkey,” but nonetheless, they are an interesting genus.  They are also referred to as Goeldi’s monkeys. Their soft, thick covering fur is usually in various shades of jet black to a darkish brown. The hair on the crown of their head is plush and stands straight up.  As “beautiful” as they might appear, and as temperate as they may appear, it is not advisable to bring one home as a pet; like most animals in the wild, they bite if provoked.

In the wild, these primates tend to be smaller in stature with the males weighing in on average 366 g, while the females weigh in on average 355 g. Also not very tall, both sexes stand at 8-12 inches.  In fact, their tail length is about their height length (10-12 inches long).  Perhaps because of their size, group structure is strong. While group sizes vary, ranging between 2-12 monkeys, the formed groupings will remain within 49 feet of each other most of the time.  Groupings are exclusive, with very little interaction with other clusters, and when they do encounter others, there is the expected vocalization and chasing, though very little fighting and rarely any injuries.  Callimicos prefer the dense forests as their natural habitat as this environment provides the food source they require.  Callimicos’ preferred meals are arthropods (grasshoppers, locusts, cockroaches, crickets, etc.), eggs, larvae, moths, bamboo, and for dessert, exudates and fruit. 

Callimicos love to sleep as much as they love to eat.  They spend 66% of their day resting in dense tangles of leaves or vegetation and 15% of their time foraging and eating. The remainder of their time is spent working off the meal by traveling.  While traveling within their groups, the monkeys do find time to communicate with each other long enough to reproduce.  In a few groups, the female is shared in a polyandrous relationship, but for the most part, they are found in monogamous partnerships with up to four offspring.  Callimicos most commonly have single births, with extremely rare cases of twinning or multiple births. The infant is well cared for by both parents. The male takes over with the onset of maternal aggression, which usually takes place between the second and fifth weeks of age. Members of the group carry around the infant until they are about 9 weeks old. 

While they are a mild species that seems to have been doing well since they were discovered in 1904 in the Western hemisphere, their conservation status is seen as threatened.  The threats are both human induced: habitat loss due to logging and ranching activity, and harvesting. In some areas of Bolivia, Callimicos are eaten.   The good news is that Callimicos are resilient to the disturbances of the forests and can live in despoiled forest as long as they are not completely cut. Of course there are the predators, which include carnivores found in these forests, and some avian predators such as hawks and eagles.  The Callimicos’ tendency to remain in the lower levels of the forests has protected them from both avian and other predators.  There are conservation groups that are bringing education around this species of monkeys and this education will be key to their survival.

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Listen to the Hummingbird

Listen to the hummingbird
whose wings you cannot see
Listen to the hummingbird
Don’t listen to me.” – Leonard Cohen

Listen to the Hummingbird

In the Northeast, it is that time of year when Hummingbirds start showing up in backyards, always a welcome sign of the season transition. There is so much more to this bird than the identifiable “humming” sound that is caused by the rapid flapping (at the rate of 13 licks per second) of its wings.

These small colorful birds have been estimated to make up over 320 of the 10,000 species of birds identified in the world. Inhabitants of only the Western Hemisphere, they are found as far north as Alaska and as far south as Chile.  The well-traveled species mostly live in the tropics during the winter months and spend their summers in North America.

Humming birds communicate with each other using visual displays.  Females use perched displays spreading their tail feathers to display white tips, and the young do the same. The males will raise their feathers and toss their heads from side to side. Males are known to perform a high trajectory dive display, diving, buzzing and making sounds with their wing feathers or vocal cords. This is also part of the male courtship ritual. Once a ready female is identified, he will fly in front of her in swift arcs.  In keeping with their identifiable vocal identity, males in the tropical South American region gather in groups called leks. Here they all sing together to try and entice females for mating. Both sexes perform shuttle flights for both communicating and courting; rapid back and forth movements display their tail and gorget facing of the other birds.

Territory claim is important to hummingbirds of both sexes, and they do so separately; the male to guard a consistent food source, and the female to shelter and feed her young.  Competition arises when food sources (nectar and insects) need to be secured. They are fierce guardians and will duel for their food.  The claws and bills are their weapons of choice and they will collide loudly. Surprisingly enough, the most that is lost in these battles is a few feathers even though their foes can be as formidable as hawks and crows!

Elephants aren’t the only ones known for their long-term memory skills. Hummingbirds have an excellent memory that allows them to recall sources of food from previous years.  This comes in handy since they eat at the rate of 10 minutes or so all day.  They are known to ingest up to 2/3 of their body weight daily! With diabetes not being an issue, sugar is the main staple of the hummingbird diet. Their sugar source is tree saps and flower nectar, and their long, pointed bills are instrumental in getting to the center of flowers. The protein required for muscle growth comes from pollen and insects which they catch with the grooves on the side of their tongues.

Back to Leonard Cohen’s song, Hummingbirds do indeed make a number of musical sounds that range from high pitched to low guttural sounds.  These sounds are used not just to serenade humans but also to lure that some-birdy special. 

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Olinguito: Hiding in Plain Sight 


Visually a cross between a cat and a teddy bear, the Olinguito is one of the most adorable mammals known to man. Extraordinarily, this species was discovered for the first time in 2013, making it the first mammal to be discovered in 35 years. The animal had been seen before by humans. In fact, it had been featured in zoos and museums around the world. However, it was always assumed to be its sister species, the Olingo. It was only recently that scientists realized that the Olinguito was its own creature: Olinguitos are smaller and furrier than Olingos, and they have rounder faces. Basically, they are a more adorable version of their sisters. (But don’t tell any Olingos we said that!)

The Olinguito is a carnivore with fluffy red-orange fur and a short, bushy tail. It weighs about two pounds and is slightly smaller than a house cat. It was placed in the raccoon family, making it the smallest living member. Researchers have found that the Olinguito primarily eats fruits, but also insects and nectar. It is active mainly at night. The Olinguito lives in trees and can jump from one to the other. Because Olinguitos (and Olingos) stay in trees and are not hunted by humans, the distinction between the two was easy to miss; not many people were in close contact with the animals.

Learn about the discovery of Olinguitos

Adorably, the Olinguito mother raises a single baby at a time, much like humans. Olinguitos live in misty high-elevation habitats in Columbia and Ecuador. Its scientific name is neblina, which means fog. This reflects the cloud forests where the animal is found. Prior to the Olinguito, the most recent animal to be discovered in the Americas was a weasel from the same habitat where Olinguitos live. Happily, Olinguitos are not considered endangered at this time.

One Olinguito who was studied by the scientists who made the discovery lived her entire life as if she were an Olingo, puzzling those who cared for her. She came from Columbia to the Louisville Zoo in 1967, and later moved to the Bronx Zoo, where she passed away. Caretakers commented that they always thought there was something strange about her. She moved from zoo to zoo because she wouldn’t breed with the other Olingos around her. As it turned out, she wasn’t an Olingo at all.

The first clue that the Olinguitos were different from Olingos came with a study of the animal’s teeth and skull. Scientists noted that the teeth and skull looked different from any other animal they had seen, and certainly different from normal Olingos: they were smaller and differently shaped. With further examination of Olinguito skins, it was discovered that this animal was smaller overall and had a longer and denser coat. Field records indicated that it inhabited a unique area of the northern Andes Mountains at 5,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level, much higher elevations than Olingos were known to inhabit.


With the new discovery of the Olinguito, an incredibly rare find, scientists are left wondering what else we don’t know about the nature and animals around us. There is still much to learn about the Olinguito: how many countries does it live in? What do we still not know about its behavior? How can we preserve its conservation? In addition, what other animals exist in the world that we don’t know about? What other pieces of science are lurking right under the surface of human knowledge, waiting to be discovered?

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