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About Orangutans

About Orangutans copyright Sandra M Dean

About Orangutans copyright Sandra M Dean

About Orangutans


There are two species of Orangutan – Sumatran and Bornean.  They differ physically and genetically, but one thing is common – both species are highly endangered due to habitat loss and poaching.

Indigenous peoples of Indonesia and Malaysia call them Orangutan, which means ‘person of the forest’ – ‘Orang’ means person and ‘Hutan’ means forest. 

Orangutans are in grave danger of becoming extinct, due to man’s actions. Unfortunately, to make matters worse, as they breed more slowly than any other primate,  it makes the situation far worse, particularly as many females are killed for their babies and habitat loss.  The female produces a baby on average only once every 7-8 years and will usually have up to three offspring in her whole lifetime.  Baby orangutans are dependent on their mothers for at least five years (up to seven years), as they learn how to survive in the rainforest – what to eat, how to climb, what to avoid.

The life expectancy of a wild orangutan is about 45 years and they are genetically nearly 97% identical to us humans, making them one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.  

They are highly intelligent, thoughtful and kind – far too kind for the World as it is today. They are not aggressive creatures and do not seek to fight humans, so it is a real shame that humans are putting them in danger, physically torturing, harming and capturing them for the sake of money. They are innocent, and wish to live only on their own, in a simple life.

They cleverly use tools in the forest to aid their food retrieval, for things like catching termites or to retrieve fruit from a tricky shell.  They know the forest very well, so they can be at the right place at the right time for the seasonal fruits.

Orangutans (the “red” ape) are the only ape to be found outside of Africa, but they differ in many ways to Gorillas, Bonobos and Chimpanzees, who nest in the trees but stay on the forest floor for much of their time.  

Firstly, Orangutans are a strictly arboreal ape, meaning that they spend their lives in the trees.  This is particularly true of the Sumatran orangutan, which has the added danger of Sumatran Tigers on the ground.  They sleep in the rainforest canopy, building nests from twigs and branches up high, which they can sleep comfortably in.  You can often see a disused orangutan nest in the trees where they have moved on to other areas for food.

Secondly, the orangutan are solitary, and do not live in family groups like the other great apes. It is not that they are unsociable, but is thought to be only for the purposes of having enough food in their area – there is not enough to share, as they mainly eat fruits, and spend most of their time foraging for and eating what they find in order to survive.  The male and female live separately, meeting only to breed, and the largest family unit is a female and two offspring. 

If you do something to help or have any questions, or any information on these wonderful creatures, please either use the comments form on our post page HERE or email us at: – let us know what you think!