THE VERY HUMAN APE

THE VERY HUMAN APEOrangutans are one of the few animals to pass the mirror test. This test gauges self-awareness by determining whether an animal can recognise its own reflection in a mirror as an image of itself. The animal is marked with a dye and, when placed before a mirror, will react to demonstrate it is aware that the dye in the mirror is located on its own body. Humans do not pass the test until between 18 months and two years of age.

Among the most intelligent primates, orangutans are adept at using a number of sophisticated tools to gather food and also make sleeping nests each night from branches and leaves. research suggests that different orangutan groups acquire different skills which are maintained and transmitted in a population through social learning.

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Wild thing: A juvenile orangutan in its native Borneo. DNA testing shows that the ape shares 97 per cent of our DNA

Orangutans have been able to communicate with humans through sign language. A 2008 study of two orangutans at the Leipzig Zoo showed that orangutans are the first non-human species documented to use ‘calculated reciprocity’ which involves weighing the costs and benefits of gift exchanges and keeping track of these over time.

Male orangutans have been known to show a sexual interest in women. The cook of noted primatologist Birutė Galdikas was raped by an orangutan and there are numerous reports of males attempting to have sex with women studying them in the wild. ( dalymail.co.uk )

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