New book charts human-orangutan encounters

Jun 06, 2014

The first comprehensive history of the orangutan-human encounter and the thin line that separates the two beings has been launched in Canberra.

In his new book, Wild Man from Borneo, Professor Robert Cribb from The Australian National University examines how the most humanlike of all the great apes has been cherished, used and abused since coming to the attention of Europeans more than 400 years ago.

"The orangutan stands on that most uncomfortable dividing line between and animal," Professor Cribb said. "For us, it exists on what has been described as 'the dangerous edge of the garden of nature'."

Professor Cribb is based at the School of Culture, History and Language in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. The book is co-authored by Professor Helen Gilbert from Royal Holloway College in London, and Professor Helen Tiffin, formerly of the University of Queensland.

Professor Cribb says our long-held fascination with the animal only found on Borneo and Sumatra stems from how human the animal is. These qualities include social circles beyond partners and children, but also being capable of living like hermits.

"Orangutans have personalities, and personal likes and personal dislikes. They also might have lots of friends, they might have no friends. They might be quite selective about the friends they do have," he said.

The red ape – which, as the authors show, is misnamed from the Malay word for 'person of the forest' – has long-held the attention of scientists, philosophers, artists and the public. The authors suggest it was the inspiration for the screen menace King Kong.

Professor Cribb said his book examines the tensions caused by the animal's human-like qualities.

"We examine how the orangutan's human-like attributes have been both recognised and ignored by science, philosophy, literature, theatre, museums and film," he said.

"We also trace how the ape has been recruited to arguments on topics as diverse as slavery and rape."

The book also looks at a very human preoccupation – survival. Professor Cribb says his of the orangutan is as much about its future as its past.

"Today, the remaining 'wild men of Borneo' are under increasing threat from mining interests, logging, human population expansion, and the widespread destruction of forests," he said.

"We hope that this history will, by adding to our knowledge of this fascinating being, assist in some small way in their preservation."

Explore further: US gives threatened status to northern long-eared bat

Related Stories

Second orangutan dies at Indonesian 'death zoo'

Oct 10, 2013

An endangered Borneo orangutan died Thursday at Indonesia's "death zoo", the latest in a series of suspicious animal deaths that have prompted calls to close the notorious facility.

Tree-dwelling orangutans on ground

Feb 28, 2014

When researchers in Borneo set up camera traps to monitor tropical mammals on the ground, they didn't expect to be photobombed by orangutans.

Fat Malaysian orangutan put on diet

Jul 05, 2013

An obese orangutan has been put on a strict diet by Malaysian wildlife authorities after two decades of gorging on junk food handed out by tourists, a report said Friday.

Borneo's orangutans are coming down from the trees

Jul 29, 2013

Orangutans might be the king of the swingers, but primatologists in Borneo have found that the great apes spend a surprising amount of time walking on the ground. The research, published in the American Jo ...

Malaysian experiment releases 3 orangutans in wild

Feb 23, 2011

(AP) -- Malaysian researchers are testing whether three young orangutans reared in captivity can adapt to life in the wild outside Borneo, while activists insisted Wednesday the experiment was a flawed way ...

Recommended for you

US gives threatened status to northern long-eared bat

1 hour ago

The federal government said Wednesday that it is listing the northern long-eared bat as threatened, giving new protections to a species that has been nearly wiped out in some areas by the spread of a fungal ...

Mice sing like songbirds to woo mates

2 hours ago

Male mice sing surprisingly complex songs to seduce females, sort of like songbirds, according to a new Duke study appearing April 1 in the Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience.

A new crustacean species found in Galicia

2 hours ago

One reason that tourists are attracted to Galicia is for its food. The town of O Grove (Pontevedra) is well known for its Seafood Festival and the Spider Crab Festival. A group of researchers from the University ...

Ants in space find it tougher going than those on Earth

4 hours ago

(—The results of a study conducted to see how well ants carry out their search activities in space are in, and the team that sent them there has written and published the results in the journal ...

Rats found able to recognize pain in other rat faces

4 hours ago

(—A team of researchers working in Japan with affiliations to several institutions in that country, has found that lab rats are able to recognize pain in the faces of other rats and avoid them ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2014
Israeli Middle Schools School to Include Theory of Evolution

"Strict Orthodox Judaism interprets the Bible's account of creation as literal, thus precluding the possibility of human evolution from a common ancestor with modern apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans."

Has anyone who is familiar with the Israeli school system compared the differences between being taught to believe in evolutionary theory (e.g., in the USA) and learning about how ecological variation results in ecological adaptations via conserved molecular mechanisms that link the epigenetic landscape to the physical landscape of DNA in the organized genomes of species from microbes to man via olfactory/pheromonal input?

This is the first report I've seen that links the scientific progress of Israeli researchers to their educational system and the report also suggests a problem in the US.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2014

"We identified instances in which the observed transcriptome can be explained by a combinatorial regulation of miRNA pairs. We conclude that the joint operation of miRNAs is an attractive strategy to maintain cell homeostasis and overcoming the low specificity inherent in individual miRNA-mRNA interaction."

Mutations perturb the protein folding that enables nutrient-dependent cell type differentiation and homeostasis, which is exemplified by the morphological and behavioral phenotypes of species from microbes to man. If only the Israeli school system enables their students to think in terms that do not link mutations and natural selection to the evolution of biodiversity, it might explain the scientific advancements that are coming from Israeli researchers.

See also: Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2014
"Professor Moshe Szyf's trailblazing research in epigenetics highlights the impact that external factors and the social environment can have on gene expression. In this special RSA NSPCC event, he considers how we deploy the latest scientific thinking to some of today's toughest challenges."


See also: From Fertilization to Adult Sexual Behavior http://www.hawaii...ion.html

"Small intranuclear proteins [linked to nutrient-dependent DNA methylation] also participate in generating alternative splicing techniques of pre-mRNA and, by this mechanism, contribute to sexual differentiation in at least two species, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans. That similar proteins perform functions in humans suggests the possibility that some human sex differences may arise from alternative splicings of otherwise identical genes." (p. 337)
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Jun 09, 2014
when you say this
Mutations perturb the protein folding that enables nutrient-dependent cell type differentiation and homeostasis, which is exemplified by the morphological and behavioral phenotypes of species from microbes to man
you are saying that this
Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution
is IMPOSSIBLE as the latter CREATES MUTATIONS PER YOUR OWN WORDS, therefore the former Cannot possibly be true if the latter is true.
GIVEN that your model creates MUTATIONS &
GIVEN that you argue against MUTATIONS THEN
we can conclude that you are either confused and dont know what you are talking about OR you are blatantly lying

Which is it, jk?

I can already prove that you are not capable of learning your own lexicon, therefore there is strong evidence for the latter above given that you've been taught about the definition of mutation as well as shown the error of your thought process regarding your model and what you think it means

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.