SEP 17, 2016 9:09 AM PDT

The Incredible Intelligence of Orangutans

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Some zoo animals have demonstrated quite the knack as escape artists. Among the legendary escape stunts, Fu Manchu the orangutan might take the cake.

During his stay at the Omaha Zoo in the mid 1960s, Fu Manchu's keepers would frequently find him outside of his enclosures when they arrived for work the next day. Even after many attempts at double-checking and securing the locks, Fu Manchu and his family were still found in the trees outside of his exhibit areas.

Only after surveillance cameras were installed did zookeepers realize the cunning intelligence possessed by this orangutan. As it turned out, Fu Manchu surreptitiously stole a wire from a doorframe, which he hid underneath his chin to then pick the locks at the gate at night. "Fu Manchu pulled the door back from its frame. Taking a piece of wire from his cheek, he then tripped the latch, much the way a thief might slip a credit card between a door and its frame," wrote Eugene Linden, author of "The Parrot's Lament, and Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence and Ingenuity."

Fu Manchu's antics earned him an honorary membership in the American Association of Locksmiths - making him quite possibly the only animal to have this distinction. Yet, he's not the only orangutan that displays a high level of shrewd intelligence, careful planning, and smart execution. Scientists are fascinated with the entire species as a whole for their abilities. Watch the video to learn more of the amazing thing orangutans do in the wild.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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