Friday, December 14, 2007

The Old Man of the Forest

Besides cheese, orangutans are my favorite thing that is orange. The picture above should be reason enough alone, but I'll elaborate.

Orangutans are the smartest animal, next to humans. They're way way way smarter than chimps. A chimp will rip your face off, while an orangutan will help you with your chess game. From wikipedia:

Perhaps its most famous use [of the Sokolsky Opening or "Orangutan Opening] came in the game TartakowerMaroczy, New York 1924.[1] The name "Orangutan Opening" originates from that game: the players had visited the zoo the previous day, and Tartakower had consulted an orangutan there about what move he should open with the next day.

Orangutans can't swim and don't like the rain, so when it rains they make themselves little hats.

They're highly emotional critters. They smile, laugh, play, mope. Just like us!
Snakes are very deadly to orangutans. Because of their natural curiosity the apes can't help but mess with snakes. Normally their mothers teach them to fear snakes, but orphan oranguantans have to be conditioned to avoid reptiles. Their human handlers will leave a rubber snake lying out in the forest, and when the ape approaches it the humans jump out and yell. Orangutans are fast learners so this trick usually works.

Still, because of predators like snakes and the fact walking on the ground is just kinda awkward, orangutans prefer to spend most of their time in the trees, not bothering anybody.
Another very interesting thing about orangutans is that they can speak, they just choose not to because they're afraid we'll make them get jobs. That's the last thing they want. Here's one watching the Office.

The best show on television is Animal Planet's Orangutan Island. It follows a group of orphaned orangutans being reintroduced to life in the wild and forming a little society. The island breaks new ground because typically the apes are loners, but they've been forced to form social constructs and so far it's working very well. The show airs Friday nights but I always watch it Saturday mornings, often more than once. I like these orangutans better than most human characters.

This is Donald. He reminds me of me. He's an agreeable fellow, but is still trying to figure life out. He's also suffering from premature male pattern baldness.

This is Jordan. Poor little Jordan. Before being rescued he was part of an illegal circus where he was forced to box other orangutans. Because of this he never learned to interact normally and he's an outcast. Also he has a constantly runny nose.

Saturnus. My favorite. He's friendly and full of bravado. He does things his own way and often fails at everything, but that never stops him from trying.

Another favorite, Cha-Cha. Look at her hair! It's like she's wearing an orangutan suit over her regular fur. She was the most outgoing orangutan back at baby school, but upon arriving at the Island she became sad and withdrawn, missing the human interaction. She's gotten better though. She's always smiling and loves to roll around in the mud.

The whole thing is overseen by my hero, Lone Dröscher-Nielsen. She's a Dane. I pretend to be a Dane sometimes.
I'm even considering going back to school to be a monkey scientist.

No, not like that. I mean a scientist that studies monkeys. I mean apes.

I hope you've enjoyed this infotainment.


  1. Those are such cute monkeys.

    But see, they use that to draw you in, then... WHAM!

    They tear your arm off (or worse).

  2. Two words:



  3. oh man. I love this show. I got so worried for Donald when he got lost in the jungle and then when his pal found him and showed him how to get back I almost cried. Okay maybe I did cry.

  4. I believe the reason they are so good at chess is that they use the Chewbacca Technique - "Let the Wookie win." Thus further emphasizing Gatsby's point. They are truly intelligent creatures...but nonetheless, vicious.

  5. Good news! Most of the orangutans in the Orangutan Island series are now going to be released into the wild. It took the Nyaru Menteng centre ages to find a suitable release site because Indonesia is losing its forests to palm oil at the rate of more than 200 hectares per hour. But the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation finally found a forest large enough to support the 189 orangutans who are ready to be released from the islands, which is safe from deforestation in the long term foreseeable future (at least 60-90 years), is protected by national and local governments, and has the support of the local people. Yay! I'm writing about the release project right now and came across this blog while looking for good photos of Saturnus to include in it.

    It's going to cost a bit for the post release monitoring and care. Nyaru Menteng understandably want these guys to survive. They've taught them their forest skills and watched them grow up, so its like sending their children into the world. If you're interested in donating you can do so at their website. There's one for every country so it's best to google Borneo Orangutan Survival Project and choose the site that suits you. :)

  6. Thanks for the update Jodie! This is great news. You said you're writing about the release project now. Where and when will I be able to read your finished piece?

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