The next time you see an Orangutan gesturing or even throwing something at you, chances are that he is not doing it without plan, but actually trying to tell you something.
That's the conclusion reached by two British scientists who have been observing the day-to-day lives of these intelligent mammals at three European Zoos. Over the period of three months, they identified 40 different body gestures for things like 'go away', 'follow me', 'I want to play' and 'give me that'.
Different gestures can also be used to mean the same thing - For instance, when they want to play, the mammals may perform a back roll and somersault, clown around by placing things on their head, or simply, lift their arms.
Other gestures are eerily human-like. A hand-to-mouth gesture or begging, indicates it wants food, whilst embracing and pulling another Orangutan simultaneously, means 'come with me'. And, when they push each other away, it means exactly that -'move away'. A light tap on the hand, a gesture often used on the young ones, means - 'stop doing that!'
What is even more amazing is that the same gestures were used by Orangutans whether they live in the USA, London or Singapore. For this particular study, scientists observed 28 Orangutans from Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey and Apenheul Primate Park in the Netherlands.
While this was the first time such a detailed study was conducted, the findings should not come as a big surprise because Orangutans have always been known to be super intelligent.
The omnivores who rarely leave the trees have been known to use leaves to shield themselves from the rain and never go in search of water - they simply drink the liquid that has been collected in the tree holes, scooping it out with a leaf.
One of the smartest known Orangutans is Chantek, a 33-year old male, who not only has a vocabulary of several hundred signs, but also, understands spoken English and American Sign Language. And that is not all - This talented ape, who resides at the Yerkes Regional Primate Center in Atlanta, Georgia, makes and uses basic tools and creates necklaces and other crafts! To read previous articles about these amazing apes check out : This is no ordinary hospital and Orangutan mum's incredible rescue effort.