Scientists were stunned to see a nature photographer's pictures. What was so shocking? The photos showed orangutans swimming and fishing in a river. Until now, orangutans have been believed to be afraid of water.
Although orangutans in zoos have been known to drown if they get into the moat around their enclosure, one scientist from Canada’s York University managed to observe this remarkable behaviour. Several orangutans in a reserve in Borneo enter the river – very cautiously, according to researcher Russon. She says that the orangs sink easily; they only go into the water if they are sure they can get what they want, such as succeeding in catching a fish. Their swimming won’t win any medals, but dogpaddling gets them where they need to go. Some orangutans will climb along a tree to be able to scoop fish out of the water.
Experts are especially surprised at this orangutan behaviour because the animals enter water inhabited by crocodiles and snakes.
This remarkable behaviour was seen in animals raised in captivity and living in a reserve. It has not – yet – been observed in orangutans in the wild.