Incredible facts about orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees

Incredible facts about orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees

We're almost finished working on our upcoming book, a pictorial archive of animals. We cannot wait to show you the stunning illustrations we've restored. This week's blog features a superb selection of primate images and facts about three wonderful species, orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees. 
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We're almost finished working on our upcoming book, a pictorial archive of animals. We cannot wait to show you the stunning illustrations we've restored. This week's blog features a superb selection of primate images and facts about three wonderful species, orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees. 

What does an orangutan eat?

Orangutan means 'person of the forest' in Malay, and you'll find these magnificent apes in the forests of Borneo, Malaysia and Sumatra, Indonesia. The logging and palm oil industry is damaging their precious habitat, making them critically endangered. An orangutan's lifespan is between 30-40 years, and they grow between 3-4 feet in height. Adult males can weigh 200 kg. 

An orangutan spends most of its time in the trees, searching for food. Their diet consists mainly of fruit, such as durians, mangosteens, lychees, mangoes and figs. They also enjoy young leaves, plant shoots, bark, insects, honey, and bird eggs. Orangutans will make a new sleeping area daily, creating a nest by weaving branches and leaves to make a warm and protective cradle. 

These fantastic creatures share 97% of our DNA (our closest relation is the chimpanzee, who shares 99% of our genes, followed by the gorilla, with who we share 98% of our genes). Orangutans have long-term memory and are highly intelligent. They have developed behaviours such as making and using simple tools. Examples include using leaves in a variety of ways to protect their hands from spiky fruits, wiping their face, or cushion themselves as they sit in trees. Captive orangutans who had never seen tools have begun spontaneously using stones as hammering and cutting instruments. 

What is the role of the silverback gorilla in a troop?

Gorillas are herbivore primates who live in Equatorial Africa. There are two species of gorilla, Eastern gorillas (subspecies: mountain gorilla and eastern lowland gorilla) and Western gorillas (subspecies: Cross River gorilla). Gorillas are an endangered species due to poaching, logging and civil wars in the countries that compose their habitat. They can also contract the Ebola virus. It's hard for gorillas to combat population decline as they have a low reproductive rate. Female gorillas have three or four babies over their lifetime, birthing a baby every four to six years. 

Gorillas live in groups, known as troops consisting of females, their offspring and younger males (blackbacks). The head of the troop is the silverback, the alpha male. He is the decision-maker and is responsible for protecting his troop from predators (humans, leopards and other gorillas), taking the group to feeding areas and settling disputes.

Great apes, including gorillas, are very intelligent and experience emotions familiar to us, including happiness, sadness and grief. Gorillas in captivity have learned sign language; Koko, a female gorilla, knew 1000 words - learn more here. Young and adult gorillas dismantle poacher traps and snares, which shows an understanding of mechanics and empathy towards other gorillas and different species. (Read more here). 


What are some examples of intelligent behaviour in chimpanzees?

Chimpanzees live in the forest and grasslands of central and west Africa.  They spend a lot of time in trees, sleeping in nests made of leaves and branches, and eating. Chimps have a varied diet that includes fruits and plants, insects, honey, eggs, nuts and meat. They prey on monkeys, small antelope and tortoises. They are intelligent creatures who use tools to eat. They spearing animals using sharpened sticks, smash tortoises against trees to break their shells, extract honey from hives using sticks, and crack nuts with stones. 

Chimpanzees are highly social animals who live in communities numbering between 20 and 150 individuals, led by a dominant male alpha chimp supported by his male allies. His job is to patrol their territory, keep the group safe and search for food. They will travel in smaller, temporary groups, such as a lactating female group tending to young or an all-male group seeking prey. Chimps hunt in a coordinated pack with designated roles designed to chase, block, catch and ambush their prey. Habitat destruction, poaching (as illegal pets and for their meat), and disease have made the chimpanzee an endangered species. 

Chimps are very intelligent and communicate using facial expressions, postures, and sounds - including vocalisations similar to laughter. Just like us, chimps will laugh when playing wrestling, chasing each other or being tickled on the belly or armpits. Chimpanzees also process grief in different ways. A group were seen tending to a dying elder chimp. Once it died, the chimps subdued their behaviour, cleaned its body and avoided the area it died. Mother chimps have been known to keep dead infants with them for a few days, carrying them around and grooming them. An unexpected death in a group of chimps was observed to agitate the other members, causing them to exhibit aggressive behaviours and to touch the corpse.


Interested in Learning More?


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