We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.



When the National Zoo’s Junior, a captive-bred 34-year-old orangutan, made a bid for freedom last month, swinging past electrified wires into the zoo’s human zone, he was only doing what comes naturally to his kind. Now, the Smithsonian Museum and the Balikpapan Orangutan Society of Indonesia are sponsoring a lecture on how to facilitate the orange ape’s escape from captivity of a more malevolent sort. Native to the tropical forests of Indonesia and Malaysia, the solitary creature with the big smile and long fur is often hunted as a pet. Baby orangutans are sold on the black market; their mothers are killed—as are the pets, when they mature. Habitat destruction and food hunting have further reduced orangutan populations, threatening the species with extinction. Groups such as Balikpapan reintroduce apes taken from illegal captors into the wild. Willie T.M. Smits, a tropical-forest ecologist, presents his lecture “Orangutans: Return to the Wild” tonight at 8 p.m. at the Ripley Center Lecture Hall, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. $13. For reservations call (202) 357-3030. (Garance Franke-Ruta)