In fact, in my head, I call them ’orange utans’. You know those weird things that stick with you from when you’re a kid? ‘Orange utans’ is one of mine. I remember being young– maybe eight or nine, I’m not sure– and in the car with my mum and my brother, living in Paradise but making the hour and a half round trip to the BigCityTown at least once a week. We played games in the car– long before in–car DVD players, I’m not even sure we had a cassette player. So we played guessing games and number plate games and Eye Spy and a more modified version of Eye Spy that was more along the lines of ‘I Think…’
“I’m thinking of something that is the colour orange, and it’s an animal” says eight or nine year old Lori on one particular drive. And, as is the fashion, my mum and brother put forward as many guesses as they can think of (”Tiger? Butterfly? Cat? Giraffe?”) while I sit, smugly, shaking my head ‘no’ to every guess they make.
“OK” says my mum after what felt like a very long time, “we give up– you’ll have to tell us the answer.”
“It’s an orange utan!!”
My mum laughed so hard she nearly couldn’t breathe and had to pull the car over to the shoulder while she recovered.
The whole ‘orange utan’ thing followed me around for the next couple of years, one of stories parents tell when they’re demonstrating how gorgeous and cute and potentially stupid their offspring can be.
And that’s, really, about as far as my knowledge of orange orangutans stretches.
Which meant it was time to do some research. And here’s what I dug up…
Nine Things You Really Should Know About ‘Orange Utans’ (especially of you happen to be trekking into the wilds of Borneo in just a few (eep!!) short months time).
- Orangutans are, like chimpanzees and us humans, classified as a Great Ape (remind me to put that on my Internet dating profile). The easiest way to tell the difference between monkey and ape…? The tail. Or lack thereof.
- Orangs are considered ‘solitary but social’ creatures. They live mainly alone, especially males. Females raise their offspring for six years before the wean and become independent, learning how to survive in the forest. But, while loners, orangs hang out in casual social groups, often connected by one dominant (big daddy) male, and have been known to interact and play when they encounter one another, especially if food is not scarce and there’s no need to biff on for it.
- Orangutans are one of the few primate species not to engage in infanticide (killing babies). Why? Well. It’s partly due to the inherent promiscuity of female orangs, who are, reportedly, flirts even into the first months of pregnancy– designed to confuse the daddy orangs as to who’s baby is who’s.
Other than that, orangs don’t kill babies because they’re just too cool for that.
- Orangs are arboreal- (is that not the up there with the most awesome words you’ve ever come across?) meaning they live in trees. They also build themselves intricate sleeping nests– with mattresses, pillows, the works– specifically designed to hold their weight, every single night.
- They not only have opposable thumbs… they have opposable toes as well. Not to mention a 360 degree rotating hip joint.
- Despite the rumors, make orang utans generally don’t get the hots for– or try to rape and pillage– female humans. Even if they are Julia Roberts. (It only occurred to me, writing that, the inherent redhead stigma that comes with that particular piece of tripe. Good grief… people are weird.)
- Orangs have been known to blow raspberries.
- Orangutans are chronically endangered, with less than 30 000 estimated to be left in the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra.
- It costs the disturbing, disgusting amount of just forty five dollars to buy a baby orang to keep as a pet in Indonesia. I can’t even tell you how sad that makes me. Especially when it costs just $55 a year through Orangutan Odysseys, to have that tiny orang utan cared for in a nursery, then hopefully rereleased back into the wild.
If that’s waaaay too much of a stretch, I totally understand. So I’d love for you to donate just one dollar to help cover the cost of my trip, to ensure the awareness we’re raising for Orangutan Odyssey and the orangutans of Borneo comes to them for nix.