Great Apes That Swim?

Monday, 28 April 2008

The great apes, particularly orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus - Bornean; Pongo abelii - Sumatran), continue to exhibit behavior that is truly amazing. Recently, orangutans were observed by naturalists swimming across a river to gain access to their favorite fruit. Orangutans, like the other non-human great apes, were long thought to be non-swimmers.
Observers thought they had seen it all until they observed the orangutans, thought to be almost exclusively herbivorous, spearfishing with sticks and eating the fish. The orangutans even went so far as to steal fish from fishermen. The observers thought that the orangutans had learned the behavior from watching humans. The unexpected behavior has been caught in photos featured in the book Thinkers of the Jungle, by Gerd Schuster, Willie Smits and Jay Ullal.

These acts would not be the first incredible stunts performed by the amazingly intelligent orangutan, an ape that many contend is actually the second most intelligent species on the planet. Orangutans, known to animal trainers and primatologists around the world as the best escape artists that nature has to offer, are frequently known to pick locks, break out of cages and set other orangutans free. They are also seen stealing boats and paddling across rivers. 

The more that orangutans are observed exhibiting such intelligent and human-like behavior, the less contrived that putative wood ape behavior sounds. Cynics have long dismissed the reported swimming, fish-eating behavior of the wood ape as products of overactive human imaginations, because, among other reasons, such behavior had no precedent among non-human great apes.

Sources: Timesonline. Can Animals Think, Time Magazine Online. Orangutan (Sheppard Software).

Incident reports by region

Click on a state:


Or select a state and county:

Recent incident reports


Occurred 7/9/1988 in Sebastian County, AR

Published on November 3, 2017 Icon-photo-off Icon-video-off

Fisherman has close encounter on lake in western Arkansas. Read more...

Occurred 5/7/2016 in Atoka County, OK

Published on June 17, 2016 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Two NAWAC Investigators find interesting trackway.

Occurred 1/4/2016 in Walker County, TX

Published on March 22, 2016 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Husband and wife observe massive upright animal in Sam Houston National Forest on FM 1375 Baker Bridge at Lake Conroe one hour apart. Read more...

Occurred 6/8/2014 in Gonzales County, TX

Published on July 8, 2014 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Couple has an encounter while hiking in Palmetto State Park. Read more...

Occurred 12/20/1983 in Walker County, TX

Published on December 21, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Hunter has close encounter in Sam Houston National Forest near Stubblefield Recreational Area. Read more...

Occurred 12/24/1976 in Tyler County, TX

Published on March 11, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Close highway encounter on Highway 287 near Woodville.

Occurred Fall 2003 in Polk County, TX

Published on March 7, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Couple has highway encounter near Big Thicket National Preserve. Read more...

Occurred 4/3/2012 in Liberty County, TX

Published on April 21, 2012 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Man out walking for exercise at local track has unexpected encounter with upright hair-covered subject. Read more...

Occurred 5/15/2009 in Burnet County, TX

Published on April 11, 2012 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Motorist has late-night encounter near Balcones Canyon Lands National Wildlife Refuge. Read more...

Occurred 5/1981 in Travis County, TX

Published on November 15, 2011 Icon-photo-off Icon-video-off

Airman reports night-time encounter on Bergstrom AFB.

View all sightings...