E y e s   o n   t h e   F o r e s t 
A U G U S T   2 0 1 5 

eyes in the forest

by Susanne Kassube

*Note: to read Genorme (part1) click here.

Planet earth is currently home to seven billion people [1]. In comparison, the approximately 60,000 orangutans remaining in the wild represent an exceedingly small number [2, 3]. Despite this 140,000-fold difference in current population size, analysis of the orangutan genome yields a surprising discovery: orangutans are much more genetically diverse than humans. If you compare the genome sequences of two randomly chosen orangutans, you will find twice as many differences than if you compare the genome sequences of two randomly chosen humans [4]. Even within orangutans, diversity is higher among the smaller Sumatran population, which consists of less than 7,000* individuals than it is among humans! The striking differences in orangutan genome sequence diversity provide important clues about primate evolutionary history.

*The most recent survey, however, indicates 14,000 individuals.

Figure: DNA

Each DNA molecule consists of two strands that form a double helix. The specific order of the four letters A, G, C and T in each strand encodes the information contained in the genetic material.

Genetic information is stored in the form of DNA. The alphabet of the genetic code consists of the four letters A, G, C, and T, which are abbreviations for the chemical names adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. The specific order of the four letters encodes the genetic information and serves as a template for the production of the molecules that are required to build every single cell in the body and to keep it functioning. Every time a cell divides, its DNA is copied so that each new daughter cell receives a complete set of instructions on how to build the molecules of the cell. In a similar way, instructions are passed on from parents to their offspring, and DNA is accordingly known as "hereditary material". Since DNA is passed down from generation to generation, it provides a record of our evolutionary history. New DNA sequencing techniques have enabled us to sequence whole genomes (the entire genetic sequence of an organism) and facilitate their detailed analysis. Comparisons of DNA sequences between species and within individuals of the same species have, in recent years, provided surprising new insights into the evolutionary history of the great ape family that had previously been difficult to obtain via other methods.

Figure: SNPs 

A single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP is the change of a single letter in the genome. While the first individual maintains the original T, the second individual carries a C at the same location in its genome. In the human genome, SNPs occur on average at every 300th letter. In the orangutan genome, SNPs occur twice as frequently, as they are found at every 149th letter.

In this Issue

Orangutan Genome (part 2): Unexpected Genetic Diversity

Orangutan of the Month: 
Anna with the Striking Eyes

Popsicle Playtime at the OCCQ

Orangutan of the Month
Become a Foster Parent to one of OFI's orangutans! Your donation will provide nourishing food, medical treatment, and loving care for the orphaned orangutans at our Care Center.


We are pleased to inform you that
Orangutan Foundation International Canada's website is now (back) up and running!

It was unfortunately offline for a brief time, but now it's better than ever, with a new design!

Please note: OFIC is a sister organization who helps to support OFI's field work in Borneo. However, OFIC and OFI are separate foundations and all donations and administrative programs are processed separately. 

by Morgan Pettersson
An assortment of orangutan fruit ice treats.

Here at the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) Care Center and Quarantine in Kalimantan, Indonesia, enrichment forms an important part of the day to day activities for the orangutans. Providing daily food-based enrichment for the orangutans means that they are given the opportunity to problem solve, rip, tear, and explore the parcels and treats they receive. 

Enrichment is not only fun but also provides the orangutans essential nutrients through gummy vitamins slipped inside food parcels. The type of enrichment given out varies according to the availability of seasonal produce and the weather, whether it is sweltering hot or a bit cold. 

Last month was all about smoothies (Summer Smoothiesbecause of the heat, but smoothies aren't the only way we help keep orangutans cool on a hot summer day. Another frozen treat that is a favorite among the orangutans are our custom-made popsicles! 

Fresh pieces of seasonal fruit are frozen along with milk, orange juice, gummy vitamins, and also leaves from the forest, leaves that wild orangutans normally forage on. These fruit and leaf ice enrichment treats not only help the orangutans to cool off but they provide important nutrients, minerals, and vitamins, some directly from the forest that the orphaned orangutans might not normally get. Orangutans love sucking at the ice as it melts to reveal the fruit pieces, wild leaves, and other goodies frozen inside! 

Ryan enjoying a fruit ice treat at the Care Center.

When fruit ice is being handed out as daily enrichment the orangutans often put their arms out of their sleeping enclosures asking for more. Many orangutans will lay on their backs and slowly savor the ice and milk as it melts, patiently waiting for the fruit to appear. Others will pop the whole thing into their mouth and crunch away, quickly devouring their treat. 

In fact, these fruit ice popsicles are not just a hit with the Care Center orangutans, but with the staff as well, who love sampling the human versions the day that popsicles are made. Creating a healthy snack for summer can be hard, so why not take a "leaf "out of the orangutan snack book and try a healthy icy treat. 

Using seasonal fruit and juice or milk, these healthy summer popsicle recipes will help you to cool off and channel your "inner orangutan". 
Orangutans need you!

Thank you very much for being a reader of OFI's Eyes on the Forest!

Want to know more about OFI? You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and our official website: www.orangutan.org

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