Orangutans

A young male orangutan makes the 30-metre climb up the thickest root of the strangler fig high above the canopy in Gunung Palung national park, one of the few protected orangutan strongholds in Indonesian Borneo. Laman had to do three days of climbing to position several GoPro cameras that he could trigger remotely. This shot was the one he had long visualised, looking down on the orangutan within its forest home. Photograph: Tim Laman

In 2016, scientists observed what is probably the first known contract killing outside of the human species. It happened in Borneo, when a female orangutan named Kondor “hired” a male named Ekko to eliminate a rival female, Sidony. These were, of course, names that the researchers gave them – the orangutans did not tell them their names. They’re dumb animals, and also they know what happens to snitches.

Orangutans are particularly docile as far as apes go, so it’s safe to say that Sidony did something to piss Kondor off right proper. The scheme began when Kondor called Ekko over, which was curious in itself, because orangutans of the opposite sex rarely associate outside of mating season. Later, Ekko was seen spying on Sidony, before returning to Kondor, with whom he immediately started having a lot of hot ape sex.

After that, Ekko confronted Sidony and promptly mauled her to death, before returning to Kondor and having some more hot ape sex.

Yes, you are correct: That was Kim Basinger’s sideplot from Wayne’s World 2. A thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters for a thousand years might not write Hamlet, but apparently they can nail down an SNL spin-off in an afternoon.

5 Painfully Accurate Human Behaviors In The Primate World

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Orangutan Cracks Up At Magic Trick

An orangutan at Barcelona zoo watches a member of the public perform a magic trick. The man shows the ape that he is placing something into a cup, and after a nifty sleight of hand, he then reveals the cup has nothing in it. The orangutan takes a moment to realise that magic has taken place and guffaws with delight.

via: The Guardian

How Smart are Orangutans?

Along with our other great ape cousins – the gorillas, chimps, and bonobos – orangutans belong to our Hominidae family tree, which stretches back 14 million years. As the only great apes from Asia, orangutans have adapted to a life high in the rainforest canopies. 

Many of the skills they learn are transmitted through the special bond they have with their mothers – the most extended in the animal kingdom next to humans. Orangutan mothers usually give birth to one baby at a time, waiting up to 8 years before having another. This gives the young, who begin as fully dependent infants, plenty of time to learn how to climb and distinguish the hundreds of plants and fruits that make up their diet. Female orangutans even stay with their mothers into their teen years to learn child-rearing.

As they grow up, orangutans also develop a complex set of cooperative social skills by interacting with their peers and siblings. Much like ourselves, young orangutans involuntarily mimic the facial expressions and emotions of their playmates, with behaviors that closely parallel human smiling and laughter.

Once they finally venture out on their own, orangutans continue to develop their resourcefulness, putting the skills they’ve learned into practice. Adults build a new nest each night by carefully weaving twigs together, topping them with soft leaves, pillows and blankets. This process requires dexterity, coordination, and an eye for design.  

Orangutans also use a variety of tools to make their lives in the jungle easier. They turn branches into flyswatters and backscratchers; construct umbrellas when it rains; make gloves from leafy pads ; and even use leaves as bandages to dress their wounds.

But orangutan intelligence goes far beyond jungle survival. Research in controlled environments has shown that orangutans are self-aware, being one of the few species to recognize their own reflections. They also display remarkable foresight, planning, and cognition.

While orangutans are able to pass cognitive tests with flying colors, there are certain problems that they need our help to solve.  Indonesia has the world’s highest rate of deforestation, and millions of acres of rainforest are burned annually to support the logging and palm oil industries.  Deforestation exposes the 30,000 orangutans remaining in the wild to poachers. They kill mothers so that baby orangutans can be sold as exotic pets.

In Malay, the word orangutan translates literally to “the person of the forest” – a reminder of our common lineage. And despite orangutans being some of the smartest animals on Earth, outsmarting their extinction requires the creativity, empathy, and foresight that our species share.

From the TED-Ed Lesson How smart are orangutans? - Lu Gao

Animation by Anton Bogaty

Baby orangutans sit in a basket at a rehabilitation centre operated by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) on the outskirts of Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan. As fires rage through Indonesia’s forests endangered orangutans are falling victim to a devastating smog or haze that has left them sick, malnourished and severely traumatised.
Picture: Indrayana/AFP/Getty Images

Why you shouldn't buy Palm Oil.

I watch ‘Going Ape’ and 'Orangutan Island’ every night on animal planet, and I can honestly say that some human beings are disgusting.

Killing the mothers because they’re 'trespassing’ on your palm oil plantations? My mistake, I wasn’t aware the Palm Oil was there before the Orangutans, silly me.

Then taking the babies and selling them into the illegal animal trade?

Even in Cameroon, gorillas and chimpanzees being killed because they go onto farms that were originally built on forest land.

And when I see the orphans stuck in cages bobbing back and forth because they’re so emotionally traumatised just makes me angry.

Then again, humans can barely care for one another, how can we be expected to look after our closest animal relatives?

Rachel Hogan from Ape Action Africa, and Lone Droscher-Neilsen who founded the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project in Borneo are amazing people. So much respect.

Nap-time: Rickina and Rocky snooze 

Orphaned baby orangutans safe to sleep in peace.

They look the picture of contentment as they doze on the ground.

So it’s hard to believe these orphaned orangutans have been rescued from a life of cruelty and hunger.

Five-month-old Rickina has a machete wound scar on her head.

(Picture: Thomas Burns/IAR/Caters)