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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Big Orange

I think my first exposure to Orangutans was actually via the Clint Eastwood films Every Which Way But Loose and its sequel Any Which Way You Can. The main character Philo's companion was an Orangutan named Clyde played by a couple Orangutans named Buddha and Manis (I think.), but as a kid I had my doubts that it wasn't in fact a human in an ape suit. This is what is so remarkable about Orangutans. As you can see in this BBC video, their ability to learn, mimic human behavior, and reason further closes the link between apes and humans.

Sadly, their similarity to humans is also the cause of many of their problems with man. Mother Orangutans have been killed by poachers so that their "human-like" babies could be sold to wealthy families as pets. Orangutans are often captured to be used as performing animals, and, while the conditions for animals in American films have improved significantly over the years, it is worth mentioning that rumor has it that the Orangutan Buddha was reportedly severely beaten by his handlers for stealing donuts on the set of Any Which Way You Can and died as a result of his injuries.
Orangutan Foundation International is working to prevent tragedies like those listed above through forest preservation and animal rehabilitation at special centers where Orangutans are cared for that have been rescued from, well, people who aren't supposed to have them.  Here's a video of a baby orangutan at one of O.F.I's Centers in Borneo.
Here's a video of a baby orangutan at one of O.F.I's Centers in Borneo.

Here's a fun trivia fact for you: the name "orangutan" has nothing to do with describing the animals' reddish-orange fur. It comes from the Malay language. "Orang" means "man" and "hutan" means "forest," so, essentially, "man of the forest."
I encourage you to read more about the foundation's work (lots of cool pictures on the site, too), and be sure to check out the pics of this baby orangutan mugging for the cameras at
Remember, too, that here in Denver we have our own baby Orangutan, Hesty, who can be seen right now at the Denver Zoo.

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