Image: A close-up portrait of a female orangutan (Pongo pymaeus) and her young together, Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia

Orangutan Culture Feels Very… Familiar

Did you know that orangutans make pillows for themselves… inside of their nests? No? Well, I bet you knew that they are masters at umbrella making, right? Or that they greet each other differently depending on what group they’re a part of? For more wonder and sense of connection to an ancient ancestor, read on!

To be real with you, I didn’t have a clue about those things either. (Pillows? Really?) But researchers have been following these great apes and have recently reported some fascinating discoveries about their habits that seem rather familiar to our own.

So without further ado, let’s swing into this edition of Saturday’s Around the World and head into Borneo (the third largest island in the world) 1 to hang out with some of our closest relatives.

Image: A close-up portrait of orangutans, female (Pongo pymaeus) and her young together, Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia
A close-up portrait of a female orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and her young together, Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia
Source: Jami Tarris

Orangutans can only be found living in two areas of the world: the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in Southeast Asia. So chances are high that you haven’t had the chance to interact with these amazing creatures outside of an enclosure.

This short documentary below, Person of the Forest, was directed by Melissa Lesh and Tim Laman and is set against the gorgeous scenery of Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo. This beautiful film gives us a fresh look into the everyday lives and traditions of these apes that we share 97% of our DNA with! 2

Via: Melissa Lesh 3 

Actually, we’re more connected to orangutans than just through our DNA…

Two words: Palm oil.

They briefly spoke about the devastating effects that this industry has had on the orangutan population in the video above, but do you know why this is? Palm oil is put into everything!

In fact, there’s a way to continue to use it sustainably without harming these amazing creatures. Jami Tarris, the person responsible for taking the gorgeous photo we opened with, spent time at the Orangutan Orphanage in Sumatra and wrote about the experience. Additionally, she wrote about what’s happening to the Orangutans and how we can help with our wallets.

Orangutans Connected to All Our Daily Lives!

Orangutans may seem half a world away from some of us, but we’re all actually closely connected to them in the most unexpected ways!

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Another way to help…

If you’ve been following us for a while, you may have seen our article on the amazing organization GlobalXplorer. Their basis is to look at satellite images of the world and use a community of everyday people to indicate if changes in the land are present in order to protect (and discover) ancient archaeological sites—and it’s been super effective!

But in reality, what does this have to do with orangutans? Well, there’s this organization, Orangutan Nest Watch, who is adopting a similar technique in order to protect the limited habitat the endangered orangutans have available. The organization flies drones over a spread of forest and collects images that they’ve uploaded to a public site where you can indicate if we think one of their nests are present. (Aside from being super helpful, it’s actually quite a fun way to spend a few moments!) 4

Finally, here’s a quick synopsis of their work!

Via: Matt Jarvis 5 

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” — Albert Einstein 

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  1. “Borneo.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 17 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 May 2018. <>.
  2. “NIH-funded Scientists Publish Orangutan Genome Sequence.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 08 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 May 2018. <>.
  3. “Person of the Forest in Vimeo Staff Picks.” Vimeo. Melissa Lesh, 21 Apr. 2018. Web. 10 May 2018. <>.
  4. Whittaker, Sarah. “Researchers Need Help to Save Orangutans With Drones.” Drone Below. N.p., 22 Mar. 2018. Web. 15 May 2018. <>.
  5. “Orangutan Nest Watch.” Vimeo. Matt Jarvis, 12 May 2018. Web. 15 May 2018. <>.
Image: Samantha Burns

Sam Burns

Former Editor-In-Chief

Sam wrote and edited hundreds of articles during her time on the Goodness Exchange team from 2016-2021. She wrote about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the Goodness Exchange, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and procurer of cheeses.

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