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Sumatra Orangutans

sumatra orangutans copyright Sandra M Dean

sumatra orangutans copyright Sandra M Dean

The Sumatran Orangutan is probably lesser known than the Orangutan’s of Borneo, but we have plenty of info on this wonderful creature …..

Sumatran Orangutans (Pongo abelii)

The Sumatran Orangutans are critically endangered. This was confirmed in 2002, when the World Conservation Union put the species on the IUCN Red List with critically endangered status.  

There are two genetically distinct species: the Sumatran orangutan and the Bornean orangutan and they have different physical characteristics.

The Sumatran Orangutan is smaller than the Bornean Orangutan and also more arboreal, which is probably due to the dangerous ground predators in Sumatra such as the Sumatran Tiger, which its Bornean cousin does not have to contend with.

They also are different in their eating habits, feeding more on fruits and insects. Sumatran orangutans also have lighter hair and a longer beard, and the males have narrower cheekpads.

Some of them, living in swamp areas, use tools to catch and eat foods, such as a branch to gain honey from a bee’s nest, or termites from a tree.

They are also more sociable and feed together sometimes.

Although they used to be more widespread, these great apes are only found in the North of Sumatra and the Aceh provinces now, and figures from 2003 showed only around 7,300 left, which will be markedly lower by now – possibly around 6,500 in 2008. Since there were 12,000 in 1994, if this drop continues, experts say they will be extinct within 10 years.

Habitat loss due to illegal logging, forest fires and the illegal pet trade and poaching of orangutan babies are the main concerns and reasons for the decline and death of this fascinating creature, both in Sumatra and Borneo.  The facts also outline the even bigger problem – the destruction of the lowland rainforests, which is one of the World’s biodiversity hotspots. The rainforest serves a big purpose – turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. When the rainforest trees are cut down, there is a huge release of carbon dioxide into the air, and this whole process is destroying our planet’s atmosphere.

Illegal logging, even in protected areas, the growth of palm oil plantations, and planned road networks continue to threaten and kill the rainforest and wildlife in it every day!  Find out more about the dangers for these wonderful creatures here and find out more about the descruction caused by unsustainable palm oil plantations here

Although there are charities and foundations helping the Orangutans in Sumatra, it occurs to me that there are not so many as are helping the Orangutans of Borneo, which I have experienced first hand – our UK TV programmes are about Borneo too, so I am making it my mission to ensure that people do realise that they are not just out in Borneo and help is needed urgently in Sumatra.

I am yet to find out why Borneo appears to be in the spotlight for charity and recognition whilst the Sumatran problems are in the background, as the Sumatran orangutans are ‘Critically Endangered’, compared to the ‘Endangered’ orangutans of Borneo, but it I do find anything out I will add it to these pages.

One very dedicated charity is SOS (Sumatran Orangutan Society) which you can see here:  Help to support the Orangutans and see how here:  
If you do something to help or have any questions, or any information on these wonderful creatures, please either use the comments form on the post page HERE  or email us at:  – let us know what you think!