10 May 2009

smarter than some humans

Orangutans are intelligent. From Associated Press (10 May 2009) and widely reported
Orangutan makes a run for it at Australian zoo

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — A zoo in Australia was evacuated Sunday after an "ingenious" 137-pound orangutan short-circuited an electric fence and hopped a wall surrounding her enclosure.

The ape, a 27-year-old female named Karta, jammed a stick into wires connected to the fence and then piled up debris to climb a concrete and glass wall at the Adelaide Zoo.

Zoo curator Peter Whitehead told reporters Karta sat on top of the fence for about 30 minutes before apparently changing her mind about the escape and climbing back into the enclosure.

"I think when she actually got out and realized where she was ... she's realized she shouldn't be there so then she's actually hung onto the wall and dropped back into the exhibit," Whitehead said.

Karta came within a few yards (meters) of visitors, who were the first to notice the animal's escape bid.

Whitehead said the animal was not aggressive, but the zoo was cleared as a precaution, and veterinarians stood by with tranquilizer guns in case of trouble.

"You're talking about an animal that's highly intelligent," Whitehead said. "We've had issues with her before in normal day-to-day operations where she tries to outsmart the keepers. She's an ingenious animal."

Officials at the zoo in the southern city of Adelaide would conduct a "thorough review" of the escape bid and it was likely some vegetation that could be used in a future try for freedom would be removed from Karta's enclosure.

Der Spiegel reports about Ujian at Heidelberg Zoo, who whistles
05/08/2009 12:48 PM
Heidelberg Zoo's Whistling Orangutan Releases CD

An orangutan in Heidelberg Zoo has attracted attention after teaching himself to whistle. Now the 14-year-old ape has recorded his first CD.

Although somewhat underrated as a musical technique, a spot of whistling can often add a certain something to a song. Who can forget Otis Redding's poignant whistling on the soul classic "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay" or the haunting whistle refrain on the fall-of-the-Wall rock anthem "Wind of Change" by Germany's Scorpions?


Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (9 Photos)

Now a whistling orangutan at Heidelberg Zoo in Germany is set to release his first CD. Entitled "Ich Bin Ujian" ("I Am Ujian"), the CD single by Ujian, a 14-year-old orangutan, will go on sale at the zoo in June. Proceeds will go toward the extension and renovation of the zoo's ape house.

The song, a jaunty pop-rock number with reggae elements, features Ujian's melodic whistling as a background element. The lyrics, sung by Tobias Kämmerer, follow a similarly self-aggrandizing stance as the classic "I Wan'na Be Like You" sung by the orangutan King Louie in the animated movie "The Jungle Book," with the chorus including the lines: "I am Ujian the orangutan, I am so cool, man, I'm a star."

Local musician Christian Wolf, who was one of the producers of the song, was passing Ujian's enclosure one day during a visit to the zoo with his son. He stopped in amazement in front of Ujian's cage when he heard the animal whistling.

He returned with a digital recording device. With the help of Bernd Kowalsky, who is responsible for apes at the zoo, they recorded five hours' worth of audio, from which they gathered enough of Ujian's whistling for the song.

Ujian apparently taught himself to whistle last summer. According to the newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Ujian was inspired to start whistling after a vegetable delivery man was late coming to his cage. Ujian let out an exasperated whistle in a bid to get him to hurry up. From simple notes, the gifted ape soon graduated to melodic phrases.

But Ujian is not only talented musically. Along with fellow Heidelberg Zoo orangutans Puan and Grisella, he paints and has produced a number of abstract works. The zoo has been holding an auction of their paintings to raise money, with Thursday marking the closing date for bids.

Orangutans are highly intelligent creatures and many zoos around the world have animals who paint or draw. However only a handful of orangutans have been known to whistle. Bonnie, an orangutan in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., recently attracted attention when she taught herself to whistle. Researchers believe she was trying to imitate the sounds of whistling zookeepers.

The song "Ich Bin Ujian" can be heard on the Stuttgarter Nachrichten Web site.

dgs -- with wire reports

Definitely smarter than some politicians.

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