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Among Orangutans: Red Apes and the Rise of Human Culture

Out of Print
The orangutans of Sumatra and their disappearing world

By: Carel van Schaik

224 pages, 95 col illus

Harvard University Press

Hardback | Dec 2004 | #149025 | ISBN: 0674015770
Out of Print Details

About this book

The local people know him as the "Man of the Forest," who refused to speak for fear of being put to work. And indeed the bear-like Sumatran orangutan, with his moon face, lanky arms, and shaggy red hair, does seem uncannily human; one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, the orangutan may have much to tell us about the origins of human intelligence, technology, and culture. In this book one of the world's leading experts on Sumatran orangutans, working in collaboration with nature photographer Perry van Duijnhoven, takes us deep into the disappearing world of these captivating primates.

In a narrative that is part adventure, part field journal, part call to conscience, Carel van Schaik introduces us to the colorful characters and complex lives of the orangutans who inhabit the vanishing forests of Sumatra. In compelling words and pictures, we come to know the personalities and temperaments of our primate cousins as they go about their days: building double-decker tree nests; using leaves as napkins, gloves, rain hats, and blankets, and sticks as backscratchers and probes; nurturing their infants longer and more intensely than any other nonhuman mammal. Here are the births and deaths, the first use of a tool, the defeat of a rival, the gradual loss of influence that, while fascinating to observe, may also help us to reconstruct human evolution.

In a beautifully written, compelling narrative that reads like a detective story, [van Schaik] weaves together several threads of evidence to argue that orangutan intelligence is intimately related to technological innovations that are passed down through social learning...Through the large number of outstanding color photographs, we meet many of the 100 orangutans his team recognized individually. They are handsome creatures with long red hair, expressive faces and round eyes that gaze out of the photographs with keen awareness.--Barbara Smuts"Scientific American" (12/01/2004)


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