Things to know about orangutans

Orangutans belong to the great apes. Weighing up to 120 kg (males) and 50 kg (females), they are the world’s heaviest arboreal animals. And they are as much dependent on the rainforest as the rainforest is dependent on them.

Orangutans play a significant role in rainforest ecology. As frugivores they distribute the seeds of eaten plants and, while brachiating through the canopy, they break off weak or dying branches, opening the canopy up to sunlight which can then reach the forest floor.

Habitat of the orangutans

Today only few populations live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, but fossil evidence suggests that originally orang-utans were widely spread. Their habitat ranges from the swamp rainforests of the lowlands to heights of up to 1,500 meters.

Species and appearance

Orangutans are divided into three species, the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) which is further divided into three subspecies, the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), and the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis). All three species differ in appearance and behavior. Read more...

Behaviour and nourishment

Orangutans spend most of their life in the tree canopy. When moving they do not actually cling to branches but hook their hands and feet onto branches. Also, they do not jump from one tree to the other but use their weight to bend branches and trees to reach neighboring trees. Read more...

Reproduction and raising the young

After an eight-month pregnancy a female will give birth to a child which she will care for intensively for about four years before becoming ready for mating again. Normally five to seven years pass before the next child is born. This slow rate of reproduction contributes to the endangered status of the orangutans, because they are not able to replenish their population at the rate at which their numbers are being reduced. Read more...

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