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Orangutan DNA

Erni Suyanti Musabine | February 16, 2015


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The orangutan, although a wild animal, bears strong genetic resemblances to humans, and has the ability to learn from its surrounding environment. Because of this, the practice of animal feeding, which is commonplace in zoos, is tantamount to teaching orangutan to beg for food. Without doubt, such a practice gives rise to unnatural behaviour, and is contrary to the principles of animal welfare, which maintain that animals in captivity must be allowed to express their natural behaviours. Eating is a vital expression of natural behaviour. The orangutan’s food should be available in its normal place, or should be hidden, as this develops the orangutan’s sense of smell and ability to distinguish between smells. Feeding orangutan, as seen in this photo, causes them to gradually become accustomed to begging for food from visitors.

The act of begging for food could potentially have the effect of spreading zoonotic diseases from primates to humans, or the other way around. Based on a list of diseases transmittable from animals to humans, the number of diseases transmitted from primates to humans is greater than those transmitted from other animals. Humans are included in the primate class with similarities to non-human primates, due to having the same receptors on the cells of organs in the body. As such, the diseases that are usually transmitted are either viral, bacterial or parasitic. 

Diseases that occur among primates cannot always be clinically detected, so an animal can appear healthy despite it carrying disease. However, if the disease is transmitted to another primate, such as a human, symptoms can be detected (and signify illness). Diseases transmittable among primates include:

  1. Hepatitis B- Hepatitis B is caused by viruses, and can affect orangutan, gibbons, and other primates.
  2. Tuberculosis (TB)- TB affects primates in the same way it does humans, being easily contractible and difficult to treat. 
  3. Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV)- SIV bears similarities to HIV among humans. Initially, infected primates do not display any clinical symptoms. SIV can cause a weakening of the immune system, causing the body to become susceptible to fatal diseases. In most cases, SIV is contracted by monkeys such as the long-tailed macaque and the ape.
  4. Cercopithecinae Herpes Virus (CHV-1)- If a primate contracts CHV-1 from an early age then it will be a carrier, yet may not display any clinical symptoms and may appear healthy. However, when the primate reaches adulthood and experiences stress then CHV-1 can be activated and become infectious, being transmitted to other primates through saliva (from bites) and scratches. Early symptoms that are visible include ulcers around the mouth, and genital mucosa. Among humans, CHV-1 can cause encephalitis (meningitis).
  5. Parasitic diseases such as worms that are usually transmitted through direct contact with other primates, etc.

Don’t teach the orangutan to beg. Make a stop to animal feeding at the zoo. (ESM)

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