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Orang utans

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Orang utan.gif (308626 bytes)There are two subspecies of orang utan, one from Borneo and the other from Sumatra. Despite clear anatomical differences, the two will interbreed producing hybrid animals of neither one subspecies nor the other. Modern zoo management frowns, rightly, upon this sort of cross-breeding, and today both races are carefully managed in captivity, as their endangered status demands, to ensure true breeding, and a healthy mixing of genes. Orang utan adults are solitary in the wild, although youngsters may be quite happily kept with parents for several years, and pairs seem to cope well together in captivity. However a solitary animal in a zoo should not necessarily be considered distressing. Possibly the most important provision to be made for orangs is sufficient climbing. In the wild these apes rarely descend from the trees. They are poorly adapted for walking on the ground, and are much more at home high up in the tree canopy. Tree stumps are not much good for them. Ropes and branches are more suitable, and zoos with orang utans that provide them have at once an entertaining and delightful exhibit of an endangered species that will almost certainly need effective captive breeding to ensure its continued survival. Look for enclosures like the splendid one at Zoo Atlanta where the orangs have plenty of open space and high trees to climb.

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Last modified: July 29, 2005