Animal Studies Journal


Wild Man from Borneo is a studious and wide-ranging cultural history of the orangutan and an indispensable resource for anyone working on this species or great apes in general. Orangutan stories and encounters have always captivated, from the tales of the Dayak and Batak peoples from Borneo and Indonesia, to the first rumours of early European travellers, and later observations and dissections. The orangutan’s uncanny similarity to humans, both in form and behaviour, made it central to a nineteenth-century debate about the uniqueness of humanity, in a time when few had been seen and Europeans were unsure just what sort of creature it was. Even after knowledge of the species became more settled, orangutans have remained central to explorations of the human/animal border and the place of homo sapiens among the great apes. Yet today, as development-driven deforestation has crippled an already declining population, orangutans are in danger of extinction in the wild. This book serves as a perhaps already forlorn act of remembrance, recounting and affirming the significance and charm of the fabled ‘red ape’.