Stories tagged orangutans

May
04
2008

A turtle whispers its secrets to the orangutan: Unfortunately, all the turtle's secrets are about shoplifting and dirty magazines. Orangutans already know about that stuff.
A turtle whispers its secrets to the orangutan: Unfortunately, all the turtle's secrets are about shoplifting and dirty magazines. Orangutans already know about that stuff.Courtesy steven2005
Just kidding, I can swim. Not very well, but I swim all right. As far as spearfishing goes, though, I couldn’t do that. I mean, maybe it’s just me, but I could never kill a fish with a stick. Unless it was lying on the ground, or something—then I bet I could really bash the heck out of a fish. I’d really whack its little head in.

Orangutans in a conservation refuge on Kaja Island in Borneo, however, have proven to be adept at both swimming and killing fish with sticks. Neither activity was thought to be possible for the great apes, but naturalists on the island have recently observed them swimming across a river to get at their favorite fruits, and using tree branches to stun fish in the water before eating them. Other orangutans were seen attempting to spear fish with branches, supposedly after seeing fishermen using rods. This is thought to be the first documented occasion of orangutans using tools for hunting.

It was also noted that some of the apes quickly came up with an even more efficient way of collecting fish: stealing them from human fishermen when their lines were unattended. Those damn dirty apes!

Oct
13
2005


Gorilla: A gorilla chewing some food.

Biologists working in the rainforest of Africa have documented gorillas using simple tools, such as using a branch to dig for food.

For a long time, scientists thought only humans used tools. In 1960, Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees using tools in the wild—the first non-human species known to use tools. In 1993, Caral van Schaik of Duke University found tool use among orangutans on Borneo. Now, we can add gorillas to the list of tool-using primates.

Humans and gorillas last shared a common ancestor some 5 to 8 million years ago. Apparently, tool-use evolved sometime before then, and has been inherited by both species. Researchers say this discovery will help us understand the evolution of the human species, and the human brain.