Spearfishing Orangutan: Real or Hoax?

An image claims to show an orangutan spearfishing in Borneo, which it allegedly learned from watching local fisherman. Today we'll take a closer look at this image and accompanying story.

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It’s true, although the ape did not develop sufficient skill to catch any fish.

The photo was published in the 2008 book Thinkers of the Jungle: The Orangutan Report by Schuster, Smits, and Ullal. The description of the photograph reads:

…a male orangutan, clinging precariously to overhanging branches, flails the water with a pole, trying desperately to spear a passing fish…The extraordinary image, a world exclusive, was taken in Borneo on the island of Kaja… This individual had seen locals fishing with spears on the Gohong River. Although the method required too much skill for him to master, he was later able to improvise by using the pole to catch fish already trapped in the locals’ fishing lines.

It was also reported that these orangutans were able to swim across a local river to get food. This is notable because it has been traditionally believed that orangutans can wade in water but cannot swim.

You can see orangutans such as this on the Animal Planet series Orangutan Island.

Orangutan-Fishing

Bottom Line

The photo of a spearfishing orangutan is real, but the ape never actually caught any fish.

Further Reading:
Orangutan attempts to hunt fish with spear (Daily Mail)

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5 Comments on Spearfishing Orangutan: Real or Hoax?

  1. Flagged for spam.

  2. Lol I hope this is real, probably not though, He should use a canoe I feel like his odds would improve.

  3. Of all the responses I have seen to this photo, the one that takes precedence is ‘well where did he get a straight pole?’ Did anyone consider that bamboo grows in areas like that? And I know (because I have some taking over my backyard) that bamboo is extremely long, super straight, and very very sturdy. So it is within the realm of possibilities that not everyone in the world is trying to photoshop pictures so as to fool people.

  4. No, it’s not photoshopped. Some orangutans are much more clever than some humans, that’s true. Kaja Island is a pre-release island for rehabilitated orangutans before they are sent back into the wild after years of rehabilitation. I’ve seen an orangutan set up a hammock (after stealing the hammock from an observant), not perfectly but she saw a human did it and she got the idea.
    Also, I work for the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, which manage Kaja Island, among other orangutan rehabilitation programs, so no, no photoshop.

  5. Can I find straight pole in the jungle to spear fish, No! But I’m not as clever as the Orangutan it seems.

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