The Dayak peoples of Borneo have a legend that says orangutans are really ghosts that can suddenly appear or disappear. It is easy to see how orangs could be mistaken for ghosts: they are so adept at managing their travels through the rain forest canopy that people would be fortunate to catch glimpses of them at all. The name “orangutan” literally translates to “person of the forest.”

In this month’s Zoobooks issue, Orangutans, it is fully explained how a 160-pound animal could make a graceful “flight” almost undetected through the trees. And we know, too, that orangs are among the most intelligent of all land animals. They not only use tools, but can plan, and are self-aware. When we add to this that they devote six to ten years to raising a single youngster, we can see how humans are included with orangs in the classification “primates.”

Check out your Zoobooks Orangutans for all the specific differences and similarities between people and orangs. The truth is, one good look at an orangutan would assure anyone that they were seeing an ape, not a human–or even a human ghost. But one good look like that would be special indeed.

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