Dean M. Chriss
Photography
Angry Orangutan Male, Sarawak, Malaysia

Angry Orangutan Male, Sarawak, Malaysia

(Click image to enlarge)

Like baby humans, baby orangutans cry when hungry, whimper when hurt, and smile at their mothers. Adult orangutans also express emotions like surprise, joy, fear, and anger just as humans do. It is easy to interpret the expression on this orangutan's face. It is a threatening gesture meant to intimidate, and it is effective. Males and females sometimes exhibit an open-mouth threatening gesture to tell others to stay out of their personal space. The gestures are mostly for the purpose of intimidation. The females seldom engage in any violent behavior and mutually avoid one another. Dominant males sometimes engage in combat that can last for an hour or more. Nearly all of them exhibit injuries like missing or stiff fingers or toes, scars on faces or heads, and missing eyes as a result.

Orangutans are extremely smart. In the wild they are often seen using found objects as tools. They are seen using leaves as toilet paper, leafy branches as flyswatters, and large leaves for umbrellas. They also manufacture tools by modifying sticks for collection of insects and to pry open large fruit and seed pods. Layers of leaves are used to hold spiny fruit as they open it. Orangutan genomes are 97 percent identical to those of humans, and 99 percent identical to chimpanzees.

The creation of palm oil plantations on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra have killed more than 50,000 orangutans. Orangutans whose habitats have been destroyed often enter villages and oil plantations in search of food where they are captured or killed by farmers who treat them as pests. The illegal pet trade also kills countless orangutans each year. Babies can be captured only by killing their extremely protective mothers. Orangutans are likely to become extinct in the wild within the next ten years.