Can orangutans talk? Maybe not verbally but they can mime their needs to other orangutans or even humans. By miming actions they can illustrate to others that they need help. Anne Russon who has been studying these animals for years has seen instances of these types of behaviors on multiple occasions. In one instance an orangutan was attempting to open a coconut and mimed to the researcher the correct way he could help him open it. The actual video of this behavior is shown in the video below.
A young orangutan pantomimes for help with a coconut from Science News on Vimeo.
It is interesting that they do this but why is it important? This behavior is thought to be a human trait but these orangutans do it as well. This further indicates the similarities between humans and apes and shows the possibility that this miming was the beginnings of human language.
The use of miming is still used in humans in gestures such as hailing a cab and waving. These orangutans have the ability to say many of the things humans speak out loud using mime and can even communicate with humans. This along with other apes being able to communicate nonverbally indicates that this probably did not evolve uniquely in humans.Listen to the Quirks and Quarks segment here:
orangutan mime quirks and quarks