Animals #1: The Brilliance of Orangutans

I’d like to begin several new topics surrounding animals which I’ll put into a new series simply called Animals. This will be the start.


Some animals are much smarter than we give them credit for. Monkeys especially are far more intelligent than you might assume. Here you’ll see several videos. Before you view them I want you to consider an orangutan. It’s a larger monkey with orange hair and interesting cheek flaps. But could you imagine them performing the mundane tasks that humans do? Here is a sample of their activities below.

Here we see an orangutan in a canoe, pedaling with its hands the same way we use a paddle. She then is shown washing herself with soap and washing clothing, a task she learned by copying others. She’s even tying a knot. She attempts to hammer nails but she’ll need more practice for that. Her son is trying to use a saw which she can actually do.

Her son is trying to use a saw which she can actually do

Credit: BBC Earth

Here is an example of an orangutan that seems to be able to handle a saw more skillfully. Over 20 years ago an orangutan learned to saw by copying others as well. This orangutan seems to be more detailed, clearing sawdust from a spot and using her feet to hold the wood. They’re able to hold items with their feet because they are closer to hands than feet, possessing opposable big toes and long smaller toes. With these feet they can grasp things more easily. In the video they place a robotic orangutan next to her which automatically saws and causes her to try to compete with it.

Credit: BBC

The video opens with Fu Manchu, an orangutan in a zoo who fashioned a key from a long piece of wire. It also goes on to talk about an orangutan’s life cycle and their ingenuity in creating suitable habitats from their surroundings. It also ends with the fact that they are endangered; only living on Borneo and Sumatra. This is a serious problem if you consider how unique these animals are and that we basically barely care. Did you know they were endangered?

Credit: TED-Ed

Fu Manchu

Sadly this has to end on a sad note. An orangutan, Chantek, who could sign has died at the age of 39. He had learned to clean his room, utilize self-made tools and memorize a route to a fast food place. For a spectacular orangutan I hope you’ll all remember him and look him up. 


For more articles related to animals go to Animals and check out my other pages for excellent content on science, technology, history and more!

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