Monday, November 3, 2014


I do not remember when my fascination with apes began. Perhaps it was when watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Or by reading the articles about Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, or Biruté Galdikas ("Leakey's Angels") in National Geographic. I do remember a picture in a book I saw at a friends house when I was very young that had a picture of a chimp, an orang, and a gibbon seated at a table having a meal and thinking how cool would it be to have playmates like that.

The great apes are our nearest relatives in the animal kingdom. We share ~ 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees and slightly less with the other great apes.


Bonobos, formerly referred to as the "pygmy chimpanzee" are highly intelligent social creatures. One bonobo, Kanzi, learned to communicate with humans via a keyboard and uses a vocabulary of some 500 English words and can understand several times more. In the wild they are generally peaceful, with the females atop the social hierarchy.


I remember reading about the "man of the forest," which is what the indigenous peoples referred to as the orangutan, and their solitary life in the treetops of the forests in Indonesia. 


I could relate to spending time in trees as there was a tree in our yard that I would climb as a youngster and sit and read for hours after school.

Gorillas on the other hand spend most of their time on the ground, with only the young climbing trees on a regular basis.


I don't know why these beasts fascinate me so. But they always have.


I have shelves of books about great apes. As well books about the lesser apes like the gibbons and siamangs. And books about monkeys, lemurs, and the other members of the primate group of which we humans are a member.


I saw many of our primate cousins at the San Diego zoo, where I took these images.  I was there on a recent business trip. It is on my bucket list to see all of the apes in the wild.

I hope I get the chance. Things are not looking good for the long term survival of these species. Habitat loss is the main threat with the forest homes being destroyed at an alarming rate. Unfortunately most apes live in regions of strife or corruption. And apes are more often viewed as food in the bushmeat trade then as creatures worthy of the right to life.

But all is not lost. And you can help. The three women I mentioned at the start of this post, Leakey's Angels, provide a way. Two, Jane Goodall and Biruté Galdikas, are still working with chimpanzees and orangutans respectively. Sadly, Dian Fosse was murdered protecting gorillas but the work she started continues today. The links below with take you to the websites of the projects these women started.

The Jane Goodall Institute works to ensure a bright future for both chimpanzees and the people who share their home.

The Dian Fosse Gorilla Fund International does the same for gorillas.

The Orangutan Foundation International has perhaps the toughest task, as the habitat was never large to begin with and is under intense pressure from logging and palm oil production.

All three are worthy of your support. They have had mine for years.

1 comment:

Danudin said...

Steve I salute your post!
As a student of Indonesian Bahasa (Language) I was told that way back in history Bumi Putra (Indonesians) and Orang Hutan (Forest People spoke regularly. Yes Orang Hutans can speak!
However when the Dutch invaded the Islands (400+ years ago) the two groups held a discussion to decide what could be done. The Bumi Putra were all for co-operation but the Orang Hutans said we just won't talk to them and that rudeness should drive them away. As you are aware "No-One has heard an Orang Hutan speak for such a long time" maybe we should just leave them alone!
Sorry about the length of the comment, Ron