1 Tahrcountry Musings: The Bornean Orangutan that Acted as a Peacemaker

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Bornean Orangutan that Acted as a Peacemaker

The latest issue of journal Primates has a very fascinating paper on a Bornean Orangutan that acted as a peacemaker in a dispute.

It was Dr Tomoyuki Tajima of Kyoto University in Japan, who recorded the behaviour along with his colleague Mr Hidetoshi Kurotori, a keeper at the Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo. The intervention by the Orangutan ended the squabbles to ensure that they do not get out of control. It is the first time that an orangutan has been seen behaving in this way.

The conclusions were arrived at from observing five orangutans, comprising two adults, two juveniles and an infant, housed at the Tama Zoological Park. During this time, one of the juveniles, a six-year-old female named Kiki, was introduced to the group. A much older female called Chappy, estimated to be 34 years old, became repeatedly aggressive toward Kiki, and was observed chasing or physically attacking kiki on 28 separate occasions. During 19 of these squabbles, another orangutan intervened, physically stepping between the two squabbling apes, to separate them. The peacemaker was an elder female orangutan called Gypsy, who is estimated to be 51 years old. A young juvenile male called Poppy was also observed to step in to quell the trouble.

Similar peacemaking behaviour has been seen in gorillas and chimpanzees, but these are naturally group-living apes. Wild orangutans usually prefer to lead relatively solitary lives and it is the first time that peacemaking efforts have been recorded in them

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