July 29, 2009

Orangutans Swing For Survival

Scientists studied how Sumatran orangutans are able to swing from branches that appear too weak to handle their weight. They believe their findings will help their fight for survival. 

A research team from Birmingham, U.K. says the animals use their hands and feet to move through the canopy in a unique way compared to other primates.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The population of Sumatran orangutans is on the decline, and now at risk of becoming extinct.

Bioscientist Susannah Thorpe and her team studied wild Sumatran orangutans as they moved through the treetops.

They found tree vibrations were lessened by their ability to move with an irregular rhythm.

Unlike other primates the orangutans can travel both upright and horizontally, above and under branches, holding on with both their hands and feet.

The researchers point out a key finding: Sumatran orangutans rely on woody vines, or lianas, which are often depleted in logged forests, for their special travel.

Scientists hope this new research helps conservation.

"If the destruction of forest land does not slow down, the Sumatran orangutan could be extinct within the next decade," Dr Thorpe said.

"Now that we know more about how they move through the trees and the unique way that they adapt to challenges in their environment, we can better understand their needs. This could help with reintroducing rescued animals to the forests and efforts to conserve their environment."


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