The Orangutans: Their Evolution, Behavior, and Future

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9780738202907: The Orangutans: Their Evolution, Behavior, and Future

In this eye-opening book, two experts on animal communication paint a compassionate picture of the species of great apes that behaves most like us. Blending the work of other scientists with their own extensive research in orangutan behavior, Kaplan and Rogers give rare insight into the lives, and the plight, of these peaceful, intelligent creatures. They provide an amazing account of orangutan behaviors, from their remarkable mothering skills to their ways of communication. Interspersed throughout are charming tales of some of the orangutans the authors have met and befriended. The authors also discuss the uncertain fate of these gentle forest dwellers, whose jungle habitat is visibly dwindling day by day. Illustrated throughout, The Orangutans is the first book to focus entirely on these remarkable primates and their relationship to humans in the evolutionary tree.

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Review:

Chimpanzees might be more like us genetically, but a close look at The Orangutans shows that our Asian cousins seem much more human. That look has been thoughtfully provided by Australian primatologists Gisela Kaplan and Lesley J. Rogers of the University of New England in New South Wales. Their book, based on their work in Sumatra and Borneo, the last wild habitats of the orangutan, is captivating, and it provides new insight into the past, present, and clouded future of orangutans. With sections on evolutionary speculation, behavioral observation, and a plea for assistance for their continued survival, the book makes a compelling case for our interest, based in both scientific and humanitarian concerns. Profuse illustrations show these apes at all ages and splendidly demonstrate their diversity; unlike most other animals, not all orangutans look alike to us. The writing is tight and at times urgent, with the burden of near-extinction always close to the surface of the authors' concern for the apes. Vivid expression of such emotions as depression and curiosity, coupled with a sometimes disturbing facial resemblance to us, makes orangutans difficult to ignore. Unfortunately, the rapid destruction of their rain-forest home may squeeze them out of existence before we can act to save them. Whether the 20,000 or so left will be enough to breed into the next century is still a mystery; we must hope that The Orangutans will never have to stand in for more direct knowledge. --Rob Lightner

About the Author:

Gisela Kaplan and Lesley J. Rogers are professors at the University of New England in New South Wales, Australia, and are active researchers of orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia. Rogers is the author of Minds of Their Own: Thinking and Awareness in Animals.

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Kaplan, Gisela, Rogers, Lesley, Kaplan,
Published by Basic Books (2000)
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Kaplan, Gisela; Rogers, Lesley; Kaplan, Robert D; Rogers, Lesley J.
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