1. Most importantly, you see how orangs behave, their considerable sexual dimorphism (M/F differences), their upright "tree-walking" mode of locomotion, very similar "hands" and "feet", and some of the specific adaptations for their unique features. Note the puffed up cheeks on mature males.
  2. Next you should understand their precarious position in the ecosystem. Orangs, like other large apes, have a very limited reproduction rate. Females may produce a young orang every 5 to 8 years -- maybe the slowest rate of all apes. Like all apes, orangs are increasingly rare due to their slow reproductive rate and human encroachment on their habitat. Orangs, preferring fruit, especially figs, naturally have a very large foraging range dominated by a large male. Within this range several females --each with her "family" of several immature offspring may travel independently, connected to the male only by vocalizations except at rare matings every 5-8 years. Like the other great apes, their future may lie in human governance of their reproduction. This brings on its own difficulties.

  3. Also consider the implications of orangs obvious imitative ability, e.g. washing clothes, as well as the implications of a good supply of food supplied by humans in contrast to their natural foraging.

    Some researchers --noting their reflective intelligence in lab studies comparable to, maybe exceeding in some situations, that of chimps -- wonder why such intelligence evolved in these creatures. Foraging, perhaps? Social interactions? One orang, Chantek, has supposedly been taught some 100+ gestures or signs-- about the same as a 1-2 year old child picks up on her own.

  4. Meet Birute Galdikas, the last of Louis Leakey's "primate women" (along with Goodall and Fossey). She has written a autobiography (1995) discussing her life with the orangs (and reflected in this video).

    Recently Galdikas has taken some criticism for her failure to maintain the mandated care of orangs in her facility. I don't know if this is a political matter or an actual reflection of conditions in Indonesia which are not that good even for the humans! (She is aware, unlike some others, of how important the early experiences of an orangutan or any primate are. See Harlow's work, for example. .. . treating orang infants like human infants may keep them alive but it may transform them into chimeric creatures neither human or orang...)

  5. You might want to take a peek at the Wrangham & Peterson (1996) reading on "Relationship Violence" for another perspective on orangutan behavior. "That male orangutans regularly rape must be one of the best-kept secrets in the literature of popular zoology, and, like much about orangutans themselves, it is still poorly understood. But it holds enormous interest, and for good reason. The occurrence of rape as an ordinary part of a species' behavior implies that it is an evolved adaptation to something in their biology, and this raises the frightening question of whether human rape may also be adaptive..... p.132."
  6. More about this can be found in Maggioncalda, A. N.and Sapolsky, R. (2002) Disturbing behaviors of the the orangutan, Scientific American, June.(download from Blackboard)
  7. Soon we will see another veiw of the orangutans -- a much more social female when sufficient food is available to support a congregation of females and their young. This social organization is more reminiscent of a transient gorilla society, with a dominant male and a group of females and their young. See van Schaik, C. (2004). Among orangutans: Red apes and the rise of human culture. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
  8. These orangs live in a swampy region known as Suaq Balimbing which has a high density of fruit trees. Orangs here have learned how to use tools to get at the seeds of the cemengang fruit. These desirable fatty seeds are protected by pricky hairs with the fruit. We see them working with small sticks to remove the protected seeds. Similarly they have acquired the ability to remove honey from bee holes in trees. It appears that there is a synergistic relationship among orang food availability, sociability, and tool use. Tool use being acquired by trial and error strongly moderated by social priming in this region.
  9. We will also see how these large dominant males obtain their rank and fight to keep it, using their long calls as well as hand-to-hand combat up in the trees.
  10. rcently, 2011, an orangutan genome has beeen published with some interesting and surprising results.
  11. Orangs are generally seen as vegetarians, primarily interested in fruit. Any animal protein might come from insects. Recently however, several observations have revealed orangs hunting slow lorises. As only a few observations exist, several on the same animal, it is plausible this is a innovative learned behavior.