Orangutans Plan Their Trips Like Humans, Tell Others Their Future Travel Routes

 @TreyeGreen t.green@ibtimes.com on September 11 2013 10:36 PM
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Researchers completed the study over a five year period, studying the "long calls" of 15 wild orangutans The primates calls can be heard more than half a mile through the forest. Reuters

Male orangutans may be GPS makers' new target demographic. 
 
According to research from anthropologists at the University of Zurich, it has been discovered that male orangutans use their planning ability to map out future needs, Science Daily reports. The team of anthropologists concluded that resonating "long calls" from male orangutans are used to announce the direction they will be traveling toward. This call can be announced more than 22 hours before the orangutan begins his travels, reports the Los Angeles Times. 
 
"Our study makes it clear that wild orangutans do not simply live in the here and now, but can imagine a future and even announce their plans,” said anthropologist Carel van Shaik, lead author of the study.“In this sense, then, they have become a bit more like us.”
 
The study -- published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS One -- was completed over a five-year period. During that time, researchers reported 1,169 “long calls” from 15 male flanged orangutans on 320 days. They charted the movements of the animals following these calls that can be heard more than half a mile through the forest. The cheek pads of the animals act as a narrow funnel for sound, allowing the calls to be amplified. 
 
The differing uses of these calls was also observed by the team. At the sound of the call coming in their direction, non-dominant males scatter in the opposite direction of the call while females that heard faint calls would move closer toward them in order to maintain contact. 
 
"To optimize the effect of these calls, it thus would make sense for the male to call in the direction of his future whereabouts, if he already knew about them," explains van Schaik. "We then actually observed that the males traveled for several hours in approximately the same direction as they had called."
 
Though the team didn't analyze the way the primates are able to figure out the specific routes expressed in the calls, they did recognize that planning skills require episodic memory and the presence of self-control for orangutans to complete such tasks. They also concluded that wild orangutans announce travel plan changes with a new, updated long call that better expresses their planned direction. 

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