Anthropologists studied wild orangutans in the Sumatran swamplands and found that, besides remembering the past and planning for the future, orangutans also communicate their travel plans to other apes up to 1 day ahead of time.
While many humans assume that animals have no concept of direction or time, experts have shown from studying apes in captivity over the last few years, that great apes at least can indeed remember the past and plan for the future.
Anthropologists from the University of Zurich have recently added to this knowledge by studying wild orangutans in the Sumatran swamplands and showing that they also communicate their traveling plans up to 1 day ahead of time.
To bring females closer and warn other males to stay away from the path they plan to take, dominant male orangutans sound a long call three or four times per day. Their cheek pads amplify the sound and it can be heard over half a mile away.
According to the study’s lead author Carel Van Schaik, “It’s a very loud booming vocalization that lasts up to four minutes—usually one to two—that goes like woop woop woop. We call them pulses.”
The dominant males also kept their head and gaze facing in the one direction instead of shaking their heads or moving about as other animals tend to do. As Van Schaik says, even after a night’s sleep and long day, when the dominant male moves the next night as announced, the others respond appropriately.