Orangutan Research Predicts What Bigfoot Research Will Look Like

 Animals, Anthropology, Apes, Biology, primates  Comments Off on Orangutan Research Predicts What Bigfoot Research Will Look Like
Jan 172017

A male Sumatran orangutan challenges a rival by baring his teeth and shaking branches. Now recognized as a distinct species, Sumatran orangutans number around 14,000 in the wild.

The below article is one of the best short articles I have read in a long time about the trials and tribulations of doing research on orangutans.  While reading it, I was struck by the similarity between what orangutan researchers put up with and what bigfoot field researchers deal with, and what professionals biologists will have to deal with after species recognition.  Long excursions to desolate locations, listening for howls and calls to locate the creatures, and difficulty visually observing the animals are all commonalities while doing field work on these elusive and solitary apes.  

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve chosen the most difficult thing in the world to study,”  
– Cheryl Knott, biological anthropologist

I’m sure it feels like this to Cheryl Knott, but bigfoot research after the species is recognized by science will be even harder.  Like orangutans, sasquatches seem to live mostly solitarly lives, or if they do travel in groups, they do so at a distance from one another.  Orangutans also have large territories and wander widely, but being a terrestrial species rather than the arboreal orangutans, sasquatch range would be much larger, and they would move much faster.  

Keep these challenges in mind as you read the below article.  Also, note the behavioral similarities between sasquatches and orangutans, such as the long calls and pushing down of trees in territorial displays.  Articles like this leave me wondering about what unknown sasquatch behaviors they share with orangutans and the other apes that are waiting to be observed.

Inside the Private Lives of Orangutans


Scientists are gaining vital insights into the red apes at a time when they face a precarious future.

Oct 022013
A Cotton-top tamarin at Schwerin Zoo.
Credit: Harald Hoyer / Wikipedia.

An interesting article recently caught my attention.  It has now been officially documented that a species of non-human primate whispers to other members of its species when not wanting to be detected or overheard.  It has long been known that other species engage in a sort of whispering.  Even gophers do it.  However, this is the first recorded instance of deliberate whispering to both avoid detection and communicate threat in a non-human primate.

I have been told by bigfooters that they have heard what they thought were sasquatches whispering back and forth to each other.  No recording was made, but I have no reason to doubt the observation that the murmuring noises seemed to resemble whispering.  (Whether or not the bigfooters’ interpretation was correct is another matter.)  This study verifying the behavior in non-human primates strengthens the researchers’ claims that the bigfoots might have been whispering.
An exciting aspect to this discovery is whether or not this same behavior can be documented in great apes.  I predict it will be, but we all have to wait to find out.
Enjoy this most interesting article:

Research duo discover first instance of non-human primates whispering to each other
Sep 25, 2013 by Bob Yirka

(Phys.org) —Psychology researchers Rachel Morrison and Diana Reiss of The City University of New York have discovered the first instance of non-human primates whispering to one another. In their paper published in Zoo Biology, the two describe how they recorded vocalizations of captive tamarin monkeys and found that when threatened they sometimes revert to whispering to one another to avoid being overheard.

Whispering is a common strategy used by people to communicate with one or more people while simultaneously trying to avoid having others hear. Other animals have been found to lower the volume of their communications as well under certain circumstances, but never before has any primate other than humans been found to do so. In this new effort, the discovery was inadvertent.
Click this link to read the rest of the article.

Sep 152013
Arno the Sumatran orangutan looking in the direction
he will be travelling in while vocalizing.
(AP Photo/Perry van Duijnhoven)

Sasquatch vocalizations have been recorded from all over North America, but very little is known about what the creatures are actually communicating, or why they are doing so.  Perhaps now some light might be shed on this interesting question by studying another ape, the orangutan. 
Researchers have now correlated the calls of male Sumatran orangutans with their directions of travel.  They observed females repositioning themselves to be closer to the male’s line of travel, and also non-dominant males moving out of the way of the dominant males heading their way.  
Could this behavior help bigfoot researchers intercept a sasquatch on the move?  It just might be possible, though extensive experimentation will be needed.  These experiments would be extremely difficult for a huge variety of reasons, such as one would have to know the direction the bigfoot was facing when it vocalized, and there are precious few observations of bigfoots vocalizing without it being observed.  
Below is the article from Discovery News:

Orangutans Share Trip Plans a Day Before Leaving
SEP 11, 2013 05:00 PM ET // BY JENNIFER VIEGAS

Orangutans not only plan their travel routes in advance, but they also inform others about their trip a day ahead of time.

This very human-like behavior implies other things about orangutans.

“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,” primatologist Carel van Schaeik of the University of Zurich, who conducted the study, was quoted as saying in a press release.

May 012013

If gorillas are capable of this, and juvenile gorillas at that, how much more capable would a sasquatch be at detecting game cams, hunting blinds, and all the other oh-so-clever contraptions we seek them out with?  Enjoy the article!

Gorilla Youngsters Seen Dismantling Poachers’ Traps—A First

Ker Than
for National Geographic News
Published July 19, 2012

Just days after a poacher’s snare had killed one of their own, two youngmountain gorillas worked together Tuesday to find and destroy traps in theirRwandan forest home, according to conservationists on the scene.

“This is absolutely the first time that we’ve seen juveniles doing that … I don’t know of any other reports in the world of juveniles destroying snares,” saidVeronica Vecellio, gorilla program coordinator at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund‘sKarisoke Research Center, located in the reserve where the event took place.

“We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas … so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that,” Vecellio added.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

BUT, before you click above, here’s another link you should visit: http://gorillafund.org/

Apr 202013
Regional Accent of humans map by William Labov

One commonly-used field technique for bigfooting is call blasting.  Back in the late 1990’s and 2000’s, this was usually done with loudspeakers and amplifiers hooked up to CD players.  The most common calls used were the Tahoe Scream (there is no public source for this recording) and the Ohio Howl.

While John Frietas is often recognized as the godfather of call blasting, it was Roger Patterson himself that tried this method first to my knowledge.  He not only recreated bigfoot sounds by yelling into church bells (to add resonance), but he also blasted calls off of a tower on a property in Tampico, WA.

Call blasting sounds purportedly made by bigfoots brings a number of questions with it.  First of all, how does one know the sounds are bigfoot sounds unless somebody saw the creature make the noise?  Even if the recordings are in fact bigfoot sounds, what are the bigfoots saying?  After all, they could be saying, “Stay away!  There’s a human here!”

One interesting question that has arisen is if bigfoots have regional accents.  Would a Southern bigfoot (possibly with a drawl?) answer or ignore one of its Yankee brethren?  Would a Midwest bigfoot shun or welcome a Canadian sasquatch’s greeting?  I would hope that bigfoots would be above stereotyping based on accents…

I ran across this article that brings to light a precedence of regional accents in primates.  Sure, these are gibbons and not bigfoots, but if one ape species has this characteristic, perhaps others do.  After all, humans have accents…

Enjoy the article:
Apes Found to Have Regional Accents
by Jake Richardson

A group of researchers has discovered that crested gibbon apes have regional accents. The scientists studied the singing of over 400 crested gibbons in 24 different locations in Asia.

The gibbons studied live in the rainforests of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China. “Each gibbon has its own variable song but, much like people, there is a regional similarity between gibbons within the same location,” said lead researcher Van Ngoc Thinh. (Source: UPI.com) (Their study was published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.)

Gibbon songs are made to travel over long distances in thickly vegetated areas by having a single frequency. It was found the songs that were most similar came from species that genetically were very closely related. Identifying gibbons by their songs is easier than by genetics because obtaining physical samples is difficult, whereas the songs are constantly being emitted and can be heard from some distance. Also, the songs can help identify where the gibbons are from, sort of like regional accents for humans.

Apr 092013
A gelada baboon in Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia.
Photo by A. Davey via Flickr.

While clearly not humans, bigfoots are extremely human-like in many ways.  They’re bipedal, they seem to travel in small family groups, and they are extremely intelligent.  There are other possible similarities that are as of yet uncertain, but could very well be present, including the capacity for speech.

If bigfoots can in fact speak to each other using language, or perhaps some proto-language, then many interesting questions arise.  These questions concern evolution, vocabulary, and even morphology that could give rise to speech.  For example, does bipedalism somehow contribute to the brain or throat structure in some way that helps enable language?

Due to my interest in the possibility that bigfoots are talking to each other, I keep my eyes open for language ability in primates.  I was recently sent this article about sounds made by a species of baboon.  These sounds contain patterns and “wobbles” that closely resemble human speech.  Please keep in mind, this is not evidence of language use by baboons.  It only shows a similarity between the sounds the baboons make and the sounds we make.  To quote the article:

“What it’s showing is this possibility for rhythmic expression and vocal output,” Ghazanfar said. “This possibility exists and geladas have exploited it. But it doesn’t show a direct relationship between what we can do and what geladas can do.”

Still, I think it’s cool, interesting, and pertinent to what I do. Here is the article for you to enjoy:

Babbling Sounds of Monkeys Share Rhythms with Human Speech

Scientists studying the evolution of speech have long puzzled over why there are no good models in primates. While primates share many traits with humans — they’ve been known to play, grieve, fight, even laugh — speech isn’t one of them.

With one possible exception. A group of wild monkeys from the Ethiopian highlands called geladas, which are closely related to baboons, make gutteral babbling noises that sound eerily human-like. And they do it while smacking their lips together. The combination of lip smacking and vocal sounds is called a “wobble.” A study in this week’s issue of the journal Current Biology analyzed the rhythm of the wobble and found that it closely matched that of human speech.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Mar 142013

Genome sequencing of our [currently recognized] closest species relative has been completed.  Considering all the DNA news that has been tossed around in the bigfoot community over the last couple years, the following article should be on most every bigfooter’s reading list.  This information could be useful to put into context the data that has been made available.

Enjoy the following from Primatology.net:

The Completed Bonobo Genome
Posted by Kambiz Kamrani in Anthropology, Blog, Bonobo,Molecular Biology

The bonobo genome is sequenced. The letter reporting was recently published in Nature, and is available openly under the title, “The bonobo genome compared with the chimpanzee and human genomes.” Kay Prüfer from the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology is the lead author. There are some interesting preliminary comparisons such as:

  • Bonobos and chimps have 99.6% sequence similarity
  • Bonobos and humans have 98.7% sequence similarity
  • The split of bonobo and chimpanzee is confirmed to have approx. 1 million years ago, with no inbreeding occurring
  • 6% of the bonobo genome has evidence of incomplete lineage sorting (when an allele does not match the population history of a species)
  • This has lead to the observation that ~1.6% of the bonobo genome is more similar to humans than chimpanzees

Oct 162012

This article caught my eye. Don’t worry yet, sasquatches are not on the list. Still, the issues that threaten the other apes are the same ones that could eventually threaten the sasquatch populations here in North America. Who knows? Perhaps some of these issues already affect the big guys…  What can you do to help?  Comment below with your ideas.

In this Sept. 15 photo released by Virunga National Park, a baby Grauer’s
gorilla that had been poached from Kahuzi-Biega National Park
is seen at the Senkwekwe Orphan Gorilla Center in Congo.
(Photo: Handout via AP)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Twenty-five species of monkeys, langurs, lemurs and gorillas are on the brink of extinction and need global action to protect them from increasing deforestation and illegal trafficking, researchers said Monday.

Six of the severely threatened species live in the island nation of Madagascar, off southeast Africa. Five more from mainland Africa, five from South America and nine species in Asia are among those listed as most threatened.

The report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature was released at the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity being held in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

Primates, mankind’s closest living relatives, contribute to the ecosystem by dispersing seeds and maintaining forest diversity.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

May 132011

Osnabrück Zoo celebrates orangutan artist

A zoo in Lower Saxony has discovered an unexpected artistic talent: “Buschi” the orangutan is selling paintings for up to €200 to support environmental protection projects.
At first glance, the paintings could be the latest work by a member of Berlin’s cutting-edge art scene. Daubes of colour reminiscent of a pre-schooler’s innocent oeuvre. But the unlikely artist is in fact a resident of the Osnabrück Zoo. 
Artwork by Buschi has been in demand since it went on sale in mid-November, with the 13 pieces sold so far fetching between €170 and €200 each. A further 23 parties anxiously await their own primate creations.

But they may have to be patient, as just like any respectable artist, the orangutan apparently rejects working to others’ schedules, and will only paint when he wants to. “He’s rather sensitive,” says Ute Magiera, coordinator for species protection at the zoo.

But she’s quick to emphasise that Buschi’s creative side is very much his own. “He’s no performing monkey,” says Magiera.

A highly endangered species native to Indonesia and Malaysia, orangutan normally have a lifespan of 30 to 40 years, but can live up to 60 in captivity. Buschi, due to celebrate his 39th birthday on December 21, was raised by staff at the zoo after failing to bond with his birth mother.

“This early care from humans left a lasting imprint and he values every piece of contact with human beings,” says Magiera.

Buschi has previously shown himself to be an ape of higher than average capability, having taken part in a study testing the intelligence of orangutans some thirty years ago. His role in the research demonstrated that his species are often more capable than other kinds of primates, such as chimpanzees, when it comes to using tools – something that Buschi’s handiness with a paintbrush proves.

It is not unknown for great apes to paint, according to Joseph Call of the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. And Buschi isn’t the first artistic ape to be found in one of Germany’s zoos; two years ago a collection of 22 paintings by three orangutans housed in Krefeld Zoo in North Rhine-Westphalia were sold to an anonymous collector in the okay for €32,000.

Money from the many sales of Buschi’s paintings will go towards helping some other endangered animals by funding the Tapir conservation project “Tajya-Saruta” in Ecuador, which Osnabrück Zoo has been supporting since 2003.

See examples of Buschi’s art here!