Orangutans

Orangutans are the only great ape that lives exclusively in Asia. Their name is derived form the Malay words “orang” (meaning “person”) and “hutan” (meaning “of the forest”). Adult male orangutans are usually twice as a large and have more facial hair than adult females. Males also have distinctive large cheek pads and a throat sack. Both males and females have light orange to dark brown fur. They have long, strong arms and relatively short legs, which makes it easy to move from tree to tree and gather food.

Orangutan with baby

Orangutan with baby. Photo by Tuomas Lehtinen.

Their diet consists mostly of fruit, but orangutans also consume leaves, bark, soil and sometimes bird’s eggs and insects. Most are active in the treetops throughout the day and make nests of leaves and branches where they sleep at night. Adult females travel with their most recent offspring, while males remain fairly solitary. Every five to nine years, mature females give birth to a single infant after roughly 264 days of gestation, and offspring stay with their mothers for up to seven years. In the wild, orangutans are threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation and, in some areas, hunting. The illegal pet trade also continues to be a threat to their survival. If current trends continue, the Sumatran orangutan will be extinct in less than 10 years.

There are two species of orangutan and three subspecies:

  • Bornean
    • Northeastern Bornean Orangutan
    • Central Bornean Orangutan
    • Northwestern Bornean Orangutan
  • Sumatran

Population:

Bornean Orangutan: 54,000 (est.)
Sumatran Orangutan: 6,600 (est.)

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