We smile when we read their stories, these “men of the forest” who in so many ways are like us. 

Recently, for example, the internet community has become enamored of Bonnie, the 30-year-old orangutan who learned to whistle by imitating her caretaker. Equally remarkable is the fact that she has taught her “roommate” Indah to whistle, too. 

And there is 51-year-old Gypsy, who not only enjoys wiping her cage down with a cloth, but also knows how to take her own medication. 

No story is as amazing, however, as that of Judy, a young orangutan raised in captivity and ultimately released in the forest by wildlife rehabilitators. Rather than relishing her freedom, Judy astounded her caretakers by walking out of the woods, sitting at a bus stop, and then actually catching a bus back to the rehab center.

Remarkable as such behaviors are, do they constitute the chief reason for preserving these creatures? Our faith tells us no. Writing of God’s intent that we “contemplate in all creatures, as in mirrors, his wisdom, justice, goodness, and power,” John Calvin proclaimed, “For there are as many miracles of divine power . . . as there are kinds of things in the universe.”

Put another way, when we truly see our fellow creatures, we see not our own human nature, but the beauty and grace of God.