The Facts

  • Genus: Pongo. There are two species.
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
  • Location: Sumatra and Borneo


The Scoop

World’s Largest Tree Dwelling Animal

The orangutan is the world’s largest tree dwelling animal. It is only found in the tropical rainforests, hill forests and swamp forests of the Southeast Asian Islands of Borneo and Sumatra.  These orangish-red haired great apes have extremely long arms and curved hands and feet. They have hands like ours with opposable thumbs which mean that they can touch each of their fingers with their thumb. They also have throat pouches that make their calls resonate through the forest. Orangutans are extremely intelligent. They have been known to use objects as tools. For example, they use leaves as umbrellas to keep the rain from getting them wet. They also use leaves as cups to help them drink water. Orangutans are active during the day and spend much of their time high up in the trees.  When heavily laden fruit trees are found orangutans will spend many hours feeding. Each night orangutans bend branches into nest platforms that support the apes while they sleep in the trees.

Male orangutans are about four and a half feet tall- as tall as an average eleven year old kid- but can weigh as much as an adult. These great apes crush tough foliage and hard-shelled nuts with their strong teeth and jaws. Their diet includes forest fruits; including durians, jackfruits, lychees, mangos, and figs. They also eat leaves and shoots, and occasionally they will eat small animals, tree bark, and soils rich in minerals.

The orangutan’s greatest threat is the destruction of forests. Naturally occurring forest fires and those set by farmers and large companies to clear the way for plantations leave them homeless. There are many organizations you can join to help protect Orangutans and their habitats.


Did You Know?

  • In Malay, "orang utan" means "person of the forest."
  • An adult orangutan's arms can be well over seven feet- which is a foot more than the height of an adult man- from fingertip to fingertip.
  • The strength of orangutans is believed to be 7 times greater than that of a man.
  • Mosquitoes bother orangutans just like they do humans and they will use branches like fly swatters to swish them away.


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