human monkey

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

Done with this one at last. Weirdness Falls twins for the Gravity Falls AU @fearmyboxers​ and I were working on. This is mostly experimenting with the new tablet and man, it’s really nice. I’ll put a review for that up once I’m back at home. I’ll also put this up on my redbubble when I have a chance.

Both twins are of age in this AU, and everyone from the zodiac has inherited various fragments of bill’s weirdness. Dipper has control over pretty much all plant life, hence the grapes, but the greenery and foliage around him tends to grow out of control even if he doesn’t ask it to. At this point the shack is overrun with vines and if you leave a piece of fruit lying around, it will probably be a tree by morning.

Mabel is a human monkey’s paw. She grants any and all wishes spoken within earshot, with a few provisions to make life incredibly frustrating. In my interpretation, the wishes flat out don’t work for members of the zodiac, but if some random passerby wishes everyone was dead, it would probably happen, so they have to be really careful.

Humans, as a species, are too narcissistic to realize this. Some of us think that we are alien, superior and unique in this world. When the truth is that loads of animals are very intelligent, some even almost as intelligent as humans. Loads of monkeys can learn sign language. We are just more evolved. Which is incredible, though


Terrence McKenna - Shamans Among The Machines

“Nano technology is a very hot buzzword at the moment, an unimaginable dream of building machines and small objects atom by atom. Perhaps under the control of long chain polymers running forms of preprogrammed software of some sort, it’s all very razzmatazz, very state of the art, but in fact pharmaceutical chemists have been working on the nano technological realm for over a hundred years. I mean when you synthesize molecules out of simpler substrate, specifically to have a conformational geometry that matches something going on in the synapse of a primate; a human or a monkey… Or something like that you are working at this nano technological level. Both the psychedelic, and the new computational machines represent extensions of human function… It locks in with the concept of prosthesis. The drugs, the psychedelic substances, the shamanic plants are forms of prosthetic devices for extending the human mind; the human perceptual apparatus into hidden realms or inaccessible realms. Similarly the machines by allowing us to model, calculate and simulate very complicated multi-variable processes extend the power of the human mind into places it could never dream of going before. And part of what seems to me, very real about being a human being and inheriting ten thousand years of human history is the complexity of the inheritance, and the growth of that complexity. A thousand years ago an intelligent human being could actually dream of mastering the entire database of western civilization, read all the classic authors, read all the bible…. Now the notion of any single human being assimilating even a small portion of the database of this civilization is inconceivable. So machines which filter, which search, which are guided by human intent, that’s part of the story. The other parts of the story are about boundary dissolving states of ecstasy in which all the factoids of the culture are thrown up for grabs, the deck is reshuffled, synchronicity rules, and out of that steps visionary understanding, breakthrough, integrated breakthrough under the aegis of psychedelic intoxication.”