Orangutans making musical instruments

This video is called Attenborough: Amazing DIY Orangutans – BBC Earth.

This is called Audio of Orangutan “Kiss Sqeaks”.

From LiveScience:

Orangutans Make Musical Instrument

By Andrea Thompson, Senior Writer

posted: 10 August 2009 10:29 am ET

The evidence is mounting that culture isn’t something unique to us humans: Orangutans in Borneo have developed and passed along a way to make a useful, improvised instrument, researchers report.

When in a tight situation, the orangutans will strip the leaves off a twig and make a crude musical instrument to alter the calls they use to ward off predators — not exactly a Stradivarius, but it seems to get the job done.

Several animals, particularly our primate cousins, have been found to use tools to aid in efforts such as foraging for food, a sign of culture, specifically the transmission of knowledge. This new finding marks the first time an animal has been known to use a tool to help it communicate, say the scientists who studied the behavior.

Kiss squeak

Wild Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) emit a particular call known as a kiss squeak — a sharp intake of air through pursed lips that makes a kissing sound.

Orangutans make this noise when they feel threatened, for example, when they fear a predator — such as a snake, clouded leopard, tiger or human — most likely to ward the predator off and not as a distress call. (Orangutans are somewhat solitary and it would take too long for the next nearest orangutan to respond.)

Kiss squeaks come in three different forms: unaided (lips only); with the hand in front of the lips; and with leaves in front of the lips. The leaves are stripped off a twig and held in a bundle in front of the orangutan’s mouth while the animal makes the kiss squeak.

When scientists first observed this behavior, they weren’t sure exactly why the orangutans used the leaves. The new study suggests that the tool lowers the frequency of the kiss squeak, making the orangutan producing the call sound bigger to their potential predator.

Frequency and size

The bigger an orangutan is, the lower the frequency of its unaided kiss squeak, for physiological reasons, said study team member Madeleine Hardus of the University of Utrect [sic; Utrecht] in the Netherlands. So when smaller orangutans clasp their hand or a bunch of leaves to their mouth, they’re likely doing it to artificially lower the frequency of their call and make themselves sound bigger.

Merely sounding bigger might do the trick to scare off a predator, because the jungles where the orangutans live are thick, which makes it difficult for the predator to actually see the primate and visually size them up.

The researchers recorded the leaf-altered kiss squeaks while they were observing orangutans who were not habituated to humans. …

The team’s findings are detailed in the Aug. 5 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

A video is here (scroll down). See also here.

Monkey Drumming Suggests the Origin of Music: here.

Orangutans illegally killed in the past decade: 20,000–Prosecutions: 0: here.

A captive Bornean orangutan has been seen acting as a peacemaker, breaking up fights between other warring apes: here.

Paleontologists are overly possessive of human fossils. Science–and the public–suffers as a result: here.

7 thoughts on “Orangutans making musical instruments

  1. Anti-Logging Protests Spread In Borneo

    Wednesday, 26 August 2009, 12:23 pm

    Press Release: Survival International

    Logging Protests Spread In Borneo As Nomads Blockade Roads

    Protests by the Penan tribe in Borneo have escalated, with twelve villages coming together to mount new road blockades against the logging and plantation companies that are destroying their rainforest.

    Journalists covering at the blockades were intercepted by police with machineguns and taken away for questioning.

    Hundreds of Penan have blocked roads at three new locations in the interior of Sarawak, in the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo. The protestors are demanding an end to logging and plantations on their land without their consent, and recognition of their land ownership rights.

    ‘They told us earlier this month they were coming to plant palm oil, and I said if you do we will blockade,’ said Alah Beling, leader of one the Penan villages.

    ‘They told us we don’t have any rights to the land, that they have the licence to plant here. I felt very angry – how can they say we have no right to this land where our ancestors have lived for generations?’

    BBC TV presenter Bruce Parry visited the Penan for his hit series, ‘Tribe’. One Penan told him, ‘It’s not true that we Penan do not want progress. Not the ‘progress’ where logging companies move on to the land. What we want is real progress. What we need is land rights first of all.’

    The new protests come only weeks after blockades by two nearby Penan villages. The destruction of their forest robs the hunter-gatherer Penan of the animals and plants they eat and pollutes the rivers they fish in. Without the forest, many Penan have difficulty feeding their families.

    The Penan have been struggling for more than twenty years against the logging companies that operate on their land with full government backing. In areas where the valuable trees have been cut down, the companies are clearing the forest completely to make way for oil palm plantations.

    The blockades are aimed at forcing the Malaysian timber companies Samling, Interhill, Rimbunan Hijau and KTS to end their activities on the Penan’s land without the tribe’s consent. One of the earlier blockades, mounted in June at the settlement of Ba Marong, resulted in the withdrawal of a KTS subsidiary from the area – but the Penan fear that the loggers may return.

    In another Penan area, the notorious company Samling is advancing on an area of the tribe’s forest that has never been logged before. Observers say that the road built by the company is likely to reach the remote Ba Jawi area within weeks.

    Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The logging and plantation companies are preventing the Penan from being able to feed their children. It’s no wonder they’re taking to the barricades. Penan in some areas are currently receiving food aid – before the loggers arrived, they would never have needed such hand-outs. The Malaysian government must recognize that this land is theirs and stops sanctioning its destruction.’

    Visit Survival’s webpage about the Penan: http://www.survival-international.org/penan

    To read this story online: http://www.survival-international.org/news/4889



    Join Borneo’s Penan Indigenous Peoples in Standing up to Malaysian Rainforest Destruction

    By Rainforest Rescue, http://www.rainforest-rescue.org/ with
    Ecological Internet’s Rainforest Portal, http://www.rainforestportal.org/
    September 7, 2009


    Malaysia is the world’s leading rainforest destroying nation. Insist Malaysian authorities respect native customary land rights and boundaries of Penan’s last remaining ancestral rainforest reserves; halt rainforest destruction in Sarawak for oil palm, pulp plantations and hydro-electric dams; and ensure rainforest destruction and abuse of indigenous rights by Malaysian companies end globally.

    NOTE: After sending this protest you are forwarded to several crucial ongoing alerts, which we ask you to please send as well.




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