Pongo faces

Last year I had occasion to look more closely than I ever had before, at orangutans (Why? Long story). I’m not generally much focused on ape species–there’s a touch of the uncanny valley in my initial response. I’m more of a “dog person,” in general. But on closer examination I found fascinating beauty and diversity.

Baby and mother, of the newly-identified species, Pongo tapanuliensis.

More recently, I read about the discovery of an entirely new orangutan species, Pongo tapanuliensisIt was announced in the online journal Current Biology last November. If you want a more in-depth dive into how they decided it’s a separate species, here’s a video abstract that lays it out well.

Pongo tapanuliensis looks to a clouded future–it is one of the most endangered ape species in the world. We’ve only just realized we have it–and we’re already about to lose it.

But reading about Pongo tapanuliensis reminded me of my earlier research. I hope you’ll enjoy this little gallery of Pongo faces, in all their marvelous variations.

With only about 800 individuals known to exist, this Pongo tapanuliensis baby has an unfortunately fraught future.

Pongo tapanuliensis may be new to us, but the other two species also deserve our regard and protection. All are endangered. All are amazing creatures.

A Sumatran Pongo abelii mother and baby find something of interest to look at, over there.
This Pongo abelii male looks to me as if he’s about to say something profound. If only he could talk!
Another P. abelii male, but clearly not the same guy as the one pictured just above. I wonder what he’s thinking about (probably wondering, “Who is this crazy human, and what is that contraption he’s waving at me?”).
A Bornean male, of the species Pongo pygmaeus, seems to have a lot on his mind.
Noisy zoo visitors prompted this reaction from a Pongo pygmaeus in an Indonesian zoo. Haven’t we all felt this way at times?
Meet Mari, a Pongo pygmaeus (Bornean orangutan), with her baby. They live in a zoo in Singapore.

If you still haven’t had enough wonderful orangutan faces, there’s a nice collection of them on this video from The Orangutan Project, based in Australia (be aware: there’s a fundraising plug at the end).

I wasn’t able to find The Orangutan Project among Charity Navigator’s listings, but another orangutan-devoted organization rated very high on their evaluation scale for financial integrity, accountability and transparency. It’s Orangutan Foundation International, based in Los Angeles, CA. If you’re inclined to donate, here’s your chance.

IMAGES: Many thanks for all the wonderful Pongo faces, to: Zee News, Stuff, and The Atlanticfor first glimpses of P. tapanuliensis; to photographer Thomas Marent on Fine Art America, for the Sumatran P. abelii mother and baby; to iNaturalist and Roni Bintang’s Flickr Photostream for the male P. abelii faces; and to Jason Hon of WCS and World View, for the askance-looking male P. pygmaeus, to Robertus Pudyanto, photographer, via Metro (UK), for the P. pygmaeus reacting to noisy zoo visitors, and to photographer Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty and Slate (nice article on animal personalities), for the photo of Mari and her baby. Thanks also to The Orangutan Project (AU)  via YouTube, for the video. 

Published by

jansgephardt

Kansas City-based Jan S. Gephardt is a writer, artist, and teacher. She makes nationally-recognized paper sculpture and writes sf mystery novels about a sapient police dog.

Leave a Reply