Parkour, The Name Of the Game for Orangutans

Free-running or its official name Parkour is moving through the urban jungle rather as our ancestors would in the heavily wooded areas bordering on the veldt. Perhaps these days there is a bigger running component in the swinging, climbing, and jumping that goes into Parkour.

 The BBC Nature group had a good time at the Society for Experimental Biology’s gig in Salzburg as they produced an other eye-catching article on the work of Coward from U Birmingham (1). The focus was initially on orangutans whose habitat is disappearing and becoming dispersed as the greed of the loggers rule the world.

Orangs have to eat a lot and keep eating as they don’t get too much nutritional value out of each mouthful. Left undisturbed in large areas, they cope as they have been doing for a very long time. But now things are tougher. They have to move more and Parkouring around their decimated habitat takes a lot of energy. How do they do it on a poor diet? That is the question delved into at U of Birmingham.

Not being able to sign up any orangs for their experiments, they had to sign up Parkour athletes as substitutes. In addition, grants don’t stretch to Parkour expeditions in the jungles of Borneo, so they had to make do with a modified gym, simulated to be like the orang habitat.

Being experimental biologists, the team wanted quantitative measurements of the energy expenditure and so oxygen masks were mandatory. Well, it turned out that the orangs knew a thing or two as they swing bendy trees back and forth to cross gaps rather than climb down, run and climb up again. When our Parkouring  orang subs tried both methods, they used up to ten times less oxygen by swinging back and forth on bendy poles to cross gaps.

Perhaps we could have these for crossing busy roads rather than having pedestrian bridges. Parkouring our way to work each morning should definitely keep the weight off.


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