Social habits of apes

  

My husband and I love watching National Geographic–such interesting programming. Last night we caught a program about unlikely animal friendships–a lioness adopted a fawn, an elephant befriended a dog, a cat wrestled affectionately with a crow (a 4 year friendship), a hippopotamus and a turtle, and an orangutan and her doggy pal. I was so excited to see these odd pairings, but even more interested to learn about the docile, sweet nature of the Orangutan. 

What I didn’t know about this adorable member of the great ape family was that for the majority of its history, the orangutan had no natural predators other than man (who didn’t come around until relatively recently). Because of this, the behaviors that some might consider “natural” to all animals such as selfishness and violence are not as prevalent here as they are in other animals. Orangutans are sweet, non-violent vegetarians, who are often solitary dwellers. Very generous indeed, after being given a treat the animal will often break off half of it and share it with you. Where food is plentiful they are highly social and open creatures.  In many cases it is indicated that with increased social interaction, the orangutan has developed in both its communicative abilities and its creation and use of tools (such as fly-swatters, leafy toilet paper, “gloves,” and umbrellas, and modifying sticks to pry open fruits).  The orangutan’s development varies by region, which has indicated that each group has developed it own evolving culture. 

So why is this on the Be Nice. blog? Besides the cuteness factor of young orangutans–which is always worthwhile–I find this so interesting because there are many people out there who believe it is natural to be mean, callous, selfish, defensive, and rude. But these orangutans illustrate that with a different set of environmental variables, the presence of these characteristics is largely non-existent. What an encouraging notion for us human beings!

But trying to change our environment can be tricky and is a daunting task. Why not approach the change from a different angle? Start with ourselves. In a world brimming with negative variables, the acts of being patient, generous, kind, and considerate would do wonders to counteract  unpleasant energies. Eventually, we would see our perceptions change. Other people would (sometimes subconsciously) feel this change and respond just as nicely. As the effects of our individual efforts spread through our communities, the possibility of changing our social atmosphere would seem more achievable and should begin to occur naturally. The connection between our actions and greater societal change is reciprocal. In seeing our environment change, we are encouraged to continue our benevolent and positive actions and interactions. Soon enough, we just might find that our historically unpleasant experiences and interactions have been transformed and have produced tangible widespread results in our surroundings. 

*** 

On another note, as the orangutan’s major predator is man, I’m listing a link below to an organization that addresses their plight (and near-extinction). If you feel so inclined, do take action: www.orangutan.org

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