(From Ann Curry, TODAY Anchor)
Some scientists consider orangutans to be the world's most intelligent animal, second only to humans. There is even evidence they have a kind of culture, passing down knowledge from generation to generation, and more incredibly this knowledge appears to vary from one geographical area to another.
They are elusive in the wild. To see them, our NBC News team had to hike deep in the rainforests of Borneo, through knee deep black water and constant waves of mosquitoes.
Yuck. But it was worth it because we found them, and were stunned at how much they reminded us of ourselves.
Their babies reach out for you, wanting to be touched. And you can see what appears to be a thoughtfulness in their eyes.
The sad truth is that our story captures on video something that is about to vanish. The United Nations says the wild orangutan will be extinct in 20 years, unless something protects the rainforests in Borneo.
What can you do?
Well, activists say the problem is that palm oil plantations are encroaching, illegally. Most of the world's palm oil comes from this region, and the activists say if people limit their consumption they could actually help protect these animals.
In the meantime, scientists are working against the clock to learn what wild orangutans may tell us about our own human history.
Have we evolved to be as compassionate to our cousins as they need to survive?
UPDATE: Check out Ann's photos from her trip.