Saturday, 14 September 2013

Who Knew? Orangutans Plan Trips

The night before Sumatran male orangutans travel through the forest, they often emit long, loud calls in the direction they plan to go, new research shows. This call, the study suggests, provides a cue to other members of the community to plan for the trip ahead, and is the first field-observed case of primates planning for future events this far in advance. 

Animals' ability to plan remains poorly understood, and has only ever been observed in a limited number of great apes and jay species within experimental or captive environments. For example, in one experimental setup, chimpanzees and orangutans were found to be more likely to choose a certain tool that would grant them a reward an hour later, and a zoo chimpanzee was once observed to gather stockpiles of stones and pieces of concrete to throw at visitors later on in a given day.

Still, this behavior is not well-documented in the field. To provide a more concrete assessment of animal planning capabilities in natural environments, researchers from the University of Zurich followed 15 different adult Sumatran orangutan males in the wild for up to 10 days each, specifically taking note of how male calls throughout a day correlated with their travels later that day and the following day. 

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