Orangutans are pretty much the best. And, guess what, there’s a whole new species.

Orangutans are pretty amazing animals. They’re one of the few great apes alive today and among humankind's closest cousins. But we may not have realized just how amazing they are until now.

The discovery started with a scene out of something like "CSI." Raya, an older adult male orangutan, had been killed by humans back in 2013. Researchers knew Raya had come from an unusual population of orangutans and had preserved his skeleton for study. And as they pored over the remains, a couple of weird things started to stick out.

"We were surprised that the skull was quite different in some characteristics from anything we had seen before," said Matt Nowak, an anthropologist. The teeth looked different too.


Hey there, big fella. Photo by Maxime Aliaga/University of Zurich.

Before he became an evolutionary puzzle, Raya had come from a rugged, mountainous, and thickly forested area known as Batang Toru.

Batang Toru is far south of anywhere else orangutans are found in Sumatra. The apes that live there are cut off from any other population of their kind. Isolated populations often evolve in unique and interesting ways, which hinted to scientists that the Batang Toru apes were special.

Armed with Raya's unique skull and teeth, the Indonesian scientists reached out to colleagues who'd done a previous genetic study.

"It was then that all the pieces fell in place," Nowak says.

The Batang Toru apes weren't just special. They were a unique species.

In honor of the Malaysian district the apes were found in, the new species has been given the scientific name Pongo tapanuliensis.

Before this, we’d known of two orangutan species. One on the island of Sumatra and one in Borneo, with Sumatran orangutans having thinner faces, longer beards, and a tendency to use more tools. But we now know there aren't two orangutan species out there — there are three.

The genetic analysis also showed that the Batang Toru apes weren't just a new species but may also represent an ancient genetic lineage that stretches back to the first orangutans to arrive on Sumatra eons ago.

The new species of ape. Photo by Tim Laman/University of Zurich.

But even as the world gets to know this new species of great ape, its future is already uncertain.

The entire species might only include about 800 living animals, according to a survey. In fact, primates all around the world are facing increasingly tough odds — as many as three-quarters of all primate species are in decline.

The good news is that we already know several ways to help out this new species. Like all orangutans, the Batang Toru apes need large, healthy forests to survive, which means protecting their habitat from deforestation is critical. The World Wildlife Fund, TRAFFIC, and International Animal Rescue also help governments crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade, which can affect orangutans. They even rescue infants that were sold as pets.

It's hard to look into a great ape's eyes and not see a little of ourselves reflected back at us.

The discovery of a whole new species of human cousin should be an incredible moment of joy. But it should also a rallying cry for better, stronger conservation efforts to make sure these animals stay around a long, long time.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are feeling the weight of it growing heavier and heavier. We miss normal life. We miss our friends. We miss travel. We miss not having to mentally measure six feet everywhere we go.

Maybe that's what was on Edmund O'Leary's mind when he tweeted on Friday. Or maybe he had some personal issues or challenges he was dealing with. After all, it's not like people didn't struggle pre-COVID. Now, we just have the added stress of a pandemic on top of our normal mental and emotional upheavals.

Whatever it was, Edmund decided to reach out to Twitter and share what he was feeling.

"I am not ok," he wrote. "Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you."

O'Leary didn't have a huge Twitter following, but somehow his tweet started getting around quickly. Response after response started flowing in from all over the world, even from some famous folks. Thousands of people seemed to resonate with Edmund's sweet and honest call for help and rallied to send him support and good cheer.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

The subject of late-term abortions has been brought up repeatedly during this election season, with President Trump making the outrageous claim that Democrats are in favor of executing babies.

This message grossly misrepresents what late-term abortion actually is, as well as what pro-choice advocates are actually "in favor of." No one is in favor of someone having a specific medical procedure—that would require being involved in someone's individual medical care—but rather they are in favor of keeping the government out of decisions about specific medical procedures.

Pete Buttigieg, who has become a media surrogate for the Biden campaign—and quite an effective one at that—addressed this issue in a Fox News town hall when he was on the campaign trail himself. When Chris Wallace asked him directly about late-term abortions, Buttigieg answered Wallace's questions is the best way possible.

"Do you believe, at any point in pregnancy, whether it's at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whenever, that there should be any limit on a woman's right to have an abortion?" Wallace asked.

Keep Reading Show less

When it comes to the topic of race, we all have questions. And sometimes, it honestly can be embarrassing to ask perfectly well-intentioned questions lest someone accuse you of being ignorant, or worse, racist, for simply admitting you don't know the answer.

America has a complicated history with race. For as long as we've been a country, our culture, politics and commerce have been structured in a way to deny our nation's past crimes, minimize the structural and systemic racism that still exists and make the entire discussion one that most people would rather simply not have.

For example, have you ever wondered what's really behind the term Black Pride? Is it an uplifting phrase for the Black community or a divisive term? Most people instinctively put the term "White Pride" in a negative context. Is there such a thing as non-racist, racial pride for white people? And while we're at it, what about Asian people, Native Americans, and so on?

Yes, a lot of people raise these questions with bad intent. But if you've ever genuinely wanted an answer, either for yourself or so that you best know how to handle the question when talking to someone with racist views, writer/director Michael McWhorter put together a short, simple and irrefutable video clip explaining why "White Pride" isn't a real thing, why "Black Pride" is and all the little details in between.


Keep Reading Show less