Clever Orangutan Mom Uses Caladium Leaf As Umbrella To Protect Offspring From Heavy Rain

Published March 13, 2019 864 Plays

Rumble / Wild WildlifeAn inventive orangutan—“the forest people”—uses a plastic bag to cover her head like a shower cap in the pouring rain. As demonstrated by the macaque monkeys on the island of Koshima, Japan who have vicariously acquired the behavior of their potatoes, we see cultural acquisition among other primates, as well, especially chimpanzees and their more peaceful cousin, the orangutan.

We may not ever find out where and when the first orangutan learned to cover its head. Maybe in some crude way they have always been doing it. But, you have to admit that there is no difference between watching an orangutan covering its head, and a human who does the same exact thing. Of course our very anatomy lends itself to similar behaviors. You would think that the orang, though, being a wild critter and living in a tropical climate where it rains a lot has gotten used to being rained on. Apparently, they don’t like it very much, either.

You won’t find “likes long walks holding hands in the rain” on the orang’s dating site profile.

On Mount Leuser National Park in the Bukit Lawang area of North Sumatra, Indonesia, tour guide Eddie leads visitors on what might be mistaken for an ethnobiology safari. These lucky visitors get to see firsthand the remarkable intelligence of these wonderful creatures. Just like human children who want to go outside and play in the rain, mama orang makes sure her kids are dressed for the weather. The caladium leaf is a familiar decoration in southern landscapes in the southern and western United States, and at least a fancy indoor plant in the north. Living up to its alternative name, the “elephant ear” plant, it is certainly big enough and robust enough to be used as a sort of waterproof sombrero.

Mom looks like she’s having a little bit of trouble managing her rain coat, but eventually she gets it right. At first we’re a little worried about her strangling herself, but soon she cinches the bag up and over her brow, where it works just dandy! We shouldn’t throw plastic away in the wild, but what if in this case a sturdy plastic bag is passed on as a family heirloom? That will really give wildlife biologists and primatologists something to write about.

In the meantime, we ponder the ever closing distance between our traditional separation of humankind and beast. Truly our closest relatives in the animal kingdom are more like us than our distant ancestors could comprehend.

By Taniya Dutta This ingenious orangutan mum came with an ingenious way of protecting her youngster from heavy rain – by using a leaf as an umbrella. The rare moment was filmed by a visitor in Mount Leuser National Park in the Bukit Lawang area of North Sumatra, Indonesia. Tour guide Eddie, who goes by […]

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