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December 19 2012

Tool-Using Orangutans Learn Like Humans


Even when they are very young, orangutans may start to form ideas about their world—specifically, how and when to use certain tools. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which indicates that ape cultural traditions may not be that different from our own.

Like humans, orangutans have behavioral traditions that vary by region. Orangutans in one area use tools, for example, whereas others don’t. Take the island of Sumatra, in western Indonesia. By the age of 6 or 7, orangutans from swampy regions west of Sumatra’s Alas River use sticks to probe logs for honey. Yet researchers have never observed this “honey-dipping” among orangutans in coastal areas east of the water.

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