The House of Science is like a collection of stories. Beautiful stories that tell neighborhoods in all their freshness. But also in all its complexities. Arch to marvel at the treasures of the world. In this new episode, let’s meet one of our closest relatives: the orangutan.
Orangutan: It’s a funny name. Even for the monkey. However, it was not given to him by chance. In Malaysia, where the great ape is still alive, the term “Orange Hotan” means “man of the jungle”. So we understand that this name, which we find very funny, was given to it to refer to the fact that this rather distinctive monkey spends most of its time in trees. It searches for fruits, leaves and insects that it feeds on. The good life in a nutshell!
Well, not that much. Because if a fileIt thrived on the entire Asian continent, and is only found in the wild today on two miserable small islands. Sumatra Island and Borneo Island. That’s why I was talking about a great “live” monkey. As always, human activities are to blame for its slow demise. Destruction and even fragmentation of their habitats, for the cultivation of the famous palm oil, but also for mining or Infrastructure. Hunting and animal trade. And of course global warming has a negative impact on the forests where orangutans live and on the amount of food available.
But back to what interests us most here,I am orangutan. Because, behind his humiliating appearance, he hides a Especially smart. Able to solve rather complex problems. See, a few years ago, researchers wanted to trap him. They are placed in front of a small number of individuals living in captivity, In glass tubes float on water. Peanuts cannot be reached if the orangutans only have to use their hands. Never mind, the monkeys have found a solution: suck water in their mouths and spit it into tubes to level up and be able to grab the tasty treat.
Orangutans also learn on their own
Oh! Of course, the orangutan is not the only animal that knows. But the great ape pushes this ability a little further than the others. And not just because his opposite thumb – like ours – allows him to grab and handle all kinds of things quite easily. Especially since orangutans are really resourceful. Because he is a keen observer.
In zoos and other sanctuaries, behavioral scientists have found that great apes enjoy taking the time to study the behavior of others. Including humans. And that this would encourage his development. Some seem to even start brushing their teeth! But does this mean that orangutans are not good at imitation? This is what German researchers deny.
Andrew Soriono is the winner of the Sony World Photography Awards with this beautiful image of an orangutan protecting himself from the rain. pic.twitter.com/KCEcxp2DKK
Loic Dombreval August 26, 2021
To verify this, they provided captive individuals at Leipzig Zoo (Germany) and Zurich Zoo (Switzerland) with hard nuts, branches that they could use as hammers, and a block of wood that could be used as an anvil. Older orangutans chose to rely on their teeth to crack nuts. It has succeeded. The end of the experience for them. But others spontaneously used the tools at their disposal.
Thus, orangutans will be able to learn on their own such a complex behavior as using a tool to crack a nut. One of the most complex behaviors, according to scientists. In the end, we won’t have to fear that the skill of the great apes will disappear due to the lack of transmission. Not that stupid, orangutan!
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