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GEORGE TOWN: UNIVERSITI Sains Malaysia (USM) is collaborating with Kyoto University, Japan, to highlight plight of orang utans in Malaysia which are in danger of being extinct.
Director of the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University, Professor Tetsuro Matsuzawa said that Malaysia should be proud of its orang utans and focus on the conservation of these apes in the forest and their welfare in captivity, at a press conference here recently.
The director, who is also the president of the International Primatological Society, said that Malaysia and Indonesia are the only two countries in world where the orang utans, an endangered species, are found in the wild. There are no more than 20,000 orang utans in Malaysia.
"The total number of orang utans has decreased by 30 per cent in 10 years due to deforestation, poaching and contagious diseases.
"Over the years, their habitat is decreasing as they make way for logging and palm oil plantations," he said.
He also said that the primate are usually hunted down as pests because they feed on the farmers' crops.
Tetsuro is known for his research in the study of chimpanzee intelligence both in the laboratory and in the wild since 1978.
Much of what he learned about chimpanzee intelligence were revealed in his laboratory work, dubbed Ai-project, named after a female chimpanzee, Ai, in the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University.
"Studies showed that chimpanzees can represent, to some extent, both the cardinal and the ordinal aspects of number.
"Through the medium of Arabic numerals, we compared working memory in humans and chimpanzees using the same apparatus. Results showed three young chimpanzees outperformed human adults in memorising briefly presented numerals," he said.
Tetsuro said that there is no research expert conducting studies on the orang utan's intelligence.
He received the Jane Goodall Award in 2001, and the Medal of Purple Ribbon in 2004.