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Dickie Calls for a Zoo Companion
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Dickie Calls for a Zoo Companion


Here's another entry in the "better in real life than in the movies" department. It's a sound clip from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the mating call of a male orangutan. In the wild, these large apes keep in touch with each other by hollering across the treetops. Male orangutans have large throat sacks to power their howls, and Linda Cieslick heard that we're featuring listener sound clips on the air, and she told us about a recording she made in 1993. She was working as a zookeeper at the Milwaukee County Zoo when one of her charges, an orangutan named Dickie, started to vocalize.

Ms. LINDA CIESLICK (Milwaukee, Wisconsin): He was naturally a solitary soul. He and others of his kind are silent watchers, and they only come together for brief periods when procreation necessitates.

(Soundbite of orangutan mating call)

Ms. CIESLICK: How they find each other for this purpose over many miles requires that they call out so that the ladies (unintelligible) can locate them.

(Soundbite of orangutan mating call)

Ms. CIESLICK: So one summer evening when he thought he was alone and I heard him sing, I knew it was really something special.

(Soundbite of orangutan mating call)

Ms. CIESLICK: Where he learned to sing is a mystery, because he never knew any other guys and the girls just don't.

(Soundbite of orangutan mating call)

Ms. CIESLICK: I peeked around the corner and he saw me and he stopped abruptly. If there was any indication of a presence other than his own, he would not even start. So then one night in the gather dusk with the radio playing softly in the background, we turned on a tape recorder and left it rolling. I made a point of closing the outside door so he could hear it and then I sat in the kitchen reading a book.

Here then is a voice that few have ever heard. It's the sound of a male orangutan looking for love.

(Soundbite of orangutan mating call)

SIEGEL: Dickie is now deceased. That was his recording call recorded at the Milwaukee Zoo in 1993, a sound clip provided by ALL THINGS CONSIDERED listener Linda Cieslick, and she says that all of that vocalizing bore no fruit. He was trying to interest a female orangutan who had born his child a few years earlier. In this case, she wasn't interested.

If you have a vivid and unusual sound in your life, animal or machine, fruitful or fruitless, tell us about it by visiting and looking for Sound Clips.

NORRIS: This is NPR.

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