September 6, 2019 6:02 AM   Subscribe

Orangutans and siamangs live in the same exhibit at the San Diego Zoo. The siamangs had a surprise premature baby. Now the baby siamang, Sela, and the juvenile orangutan, Aisha, spend a lot of time hanging out.
posted by ChuraChura (28 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I follow the San Diego Zoo on Instagram and I just LOVE this relationship.
posted by cooker girl at 6:17 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]

We used to live in San Diego and loved watching the orangutans and siamangs play. The at-the-time young male orangutan would often play with them but the siamangs learned to leave the big male alone - Clyde would ignore a lot but after enough harassment he’d casually toss the offending siamang halfway across the enclosure.
posted by adamsc at 6:25 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]

Big fluffy baby and tiny fuzzy baby are best friends!!!
posted by Mizu at 6:25 AM on September 6 [5 favorites]

I am chuckling to myself for two related reasons:
1) I cannot believe I am this old and am hearing for the first time of siamangs.
2) I spent three years actually living right in the middle of their range, in Penninsular Malaysia - of course never saw one, the palm oil plantations was all you'd see, so actually this is more their imaginary range if it were not for the massive loss of habitat...
posted by Meatbomb at 6:44 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]

I love siamangs so GD much. What a cool weird animal. The old males will lay back and knit their fingers behind their heads just like a person.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:56 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]

My kids have a very clear memory of the time we took them to Twycross Zoo in the UK, and we watched a baby Orangutan pick up, and painstakingly dismember, a dead pigeon, tossing the bits of pigeon towards us if wondering whether we'd want to eat it.
posted by pipeski at 7:00 AM on September 6 [7 favorites]

Bet you can't find a more precious pair of primate playmates.

I mean, they're pretty damned cute, but my three-year-old nephew met a three-year-old girl while camping last weekend and it was off the charts adorable.

(Not at all biased.)
posted by jacquilynne at 7:27 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]

Siamangs had the Madchester centre-parting before it was cool.
posted by scruss at 8:20 AM on September 6 [3 favorites]

posted by zombieflanders at 8:49 AM on September 6 [2 favorites]

The librarian approves and has given a banana.

posted by sio42 at 9:00 AM on September 6 [13 favorites]

There's a ton of good photos and video on Instagram too, mostly from zoogirlsd. So cute!
posted by tavella at 9:09 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]

So this zoo has a shared wookie/ewok exhibit as well?

Just kidding, adorable!
posted by DreamerFi at 9:27 AM on September 6

CW: Orangutan butt.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:49 AM on September 6

yes yes yes yes YES
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:55 AM on September 6

I particularly like this one, where Aisha is tentatively introducing herself to a younger Sela, Sela thinks her finger is great to teeth on, and mom Eloise is monitoring together time very strictly!
posted by tavella at 9:57 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]

Siamangs seem committed to keeping 80s hair alive.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:10 AM on September 6 [5 favorites]

I particularly like this one, where Aisha is tentatively introducing herself to a younger Sela, Sela thinks her finger is great to teeth on, and mom Eloise is monitoring together time very strictly!

This reminded me of "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried" and now I am very sad.
posted by Token Meme at 10:31 AM on September 6 [1 favorite]

Also had never heard of siamangs until today, but having learned that they're gibbons, I know that they are the best apes.
posted by jquinby at 1:06 PM on September 6 [2 favorites]

posted by ook at 2:58 PM on September 6 [1 favorite]

Dear movie theaters. I'm over narrative. I would, however, be happy to pay good money for 90 minutes of this on a big screen. No music. Thank you.
posted by Wetterschneider at 3:17 PM on September 6 [2 favorites]

At 1:55 you can really see how long the hair is on the orangutan. Is that because it's a juvenile, or is it an individual thing? I'm sure I've never seen one with such long hair before.
posted by lollusc at 6:44 PM on September 6

I mean 1:30
posted by lollusc at 6:47 PM on September 6

That's actually the adult male walking through - some adult males develop cheek flanges and those gigantic capes of hair.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:56 PM on September 6 [3 favorites]

Some but not all? Is it genetic? Does it serve a purpose (signaling fitness &c)?
posted by Westringia F. at 5:35 AM on September 7 [1 favorite]

The way the baby crawls all over mom non-stop, sometimes smooshing her face, is incredibly relatable.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 6:27 AM on September 7

Good questions! We don't know! The problem with orangutans is they have such long generations that it's hard to answer those questions. Flanged and unflanged males are both about equally reproductively successful, though they have very different strategies. Flanged males (the big ones) make long calls that advertise their presence, and females are more likely to approach them and solicit mating. Unflanged males are about as big as females, and generally a lot less conspicuous, and they're more likely to force females to mate with them. One of the projects in the lab I'm in currently is looking at hormones and other biomarkers in adolescent and adult males at zoos to try to get a handle on what the physiology of flanging looks like and what might cause males to become flanged or unflanged - there are both types in captivity, even at the same zoo sometimes, so it's probably not only an environmental response. It might be genetic, but sons of the same mother don't necessarily develop the same morph, and sons of flanged males can stay unflanged or sons of unflanged males can develop flanges.

That's one reason it's kind of cool to study primates. There are lots of things we know, but there are still lots of basic things that all you can do right now is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and write grants to keep doing research!
posted by ChuraChura at 7:00 AM on September 7 [8 favorites]

Oh, that's fascinating! Do they ever switch, or is there a point past which they're committed to one or the other morph?

Also -- this might be an insane question, but -- is there any evidence that it depends on whom else is around? That is: if there are already many flanged males present, it might not make sense to spend the metabolic energy to grow flanges; but if there are few flanged males, then the benefit of standing out might be worth the cost. (That said, if males commit to a morph I'm not sure how you'd test this experimentally... or, for that matter, what the biochemical mechanism would be.)
posted by Westringia F. at 7:31 AM on September 7 [1 favorite]

Unflanged males can develop flanges, but once you have them, you never go back to being unflanged. But they don't necessarily develop flanges, and flanged males can start developing flanges from adolescence without spending time as unflanged adults.

You're almost certainly onto something - I suspect that the population density and presence of other males plays a role, and also forest productivity during development and things, but that's something that's really hard to gather enough evidence to come to a conclusion. There are only a few places that have long-term studies of wild orangutans (Sabangau, Suaq, Gunung Palung, Tuanan, Tanjung Puting, and maybe a few others), and because orangutans are essentially solitary, we can only follow a few at a time. It's hard to additionally monitor population density and composition given the dense forest and large home range of orangutans. In particular, flanged males travel really far and they're hard to track, especially if they're unhabituated. So we just don't have the sample sizes and complete sets of data we'd need to start testing those hypotheses in the wild, which is frustrating. The fact that there's still variation in captivity is promising, though, because it's so much easier to manipulate and control particular variables and the broader environment in a zoo setting, so we can explore a particular hypothesis in relative isolation.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:36 AM on September 7 [3 favorites]

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