"What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts, also happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth."
- Chief Seattle
The love I have for orangutans comes from an early age. Like most little sisters, my older brother ruthlessly teased me. When I was a baby he would make me mimic funny faces and stick my hair up on end. He said I looked like an orangutan. His teasing continued, but instead of getting mad, I became interested. I began taking a look at these creatures and soon discovered that being compared to one wasn't completely wrong. Actually, orangutans have 97% of the same DNA as humans. So maybe my brother's teasing was not that far off, not that I'll mention that fact to him anytime soon!
Orangutans are part of the Great Ape group that are the closest animals related to humans. Orangutans are unique in the ape world in that the other three types, gorillas, chimpanzees, and baboons, are all from Africa. Orangutans are the only apes to come from Asia. Another distinction of the orangutan is their hair, which is bright reddish brown instead of light brown or black like the other species. However, probably the biggest difference is that orangutans are the only arboreal apes. This means that they live primarily in the trees, while the other apes move along the forest ground. In fact, they are the largest animals in the world to dwell in trees.
Orangutans used to live as far away as Thailand and Cambodia, but due to human encroachment, they are now only found in the wild in two of Indonesia's islands, Sum...
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...f destruction humans have caused to this species. This is especially hard to understand when seeing what close connections humans have with them. It does not take a lot of time spent watching these animals to fall in love with them. While sitting and observing the orangutans at the Denver Zoo, I was amazed at the joy they brought to other visitors, adults and children alike. By slightly modifying our behavior and lifestyle, we can make a difference in the lives of these animals so that they can be seen not only behind glass at zoos, but in their rightful homes among the trees.
Balikpapan Orangutan Society-- www.orangutan.com
Orangutan Foundation International- www.orangutan.org
Smits, W. (2002, October 28). Saving the Orangutans. [Lecture]. In Lecture Series: Endangered Species. Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
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