Animals / Mammal Facts / Orangutans of Borneo and Sumatra

Orangutans of Borneo and Sumatra

Baby Orangutan

Baby Orangutan

The name Orang-utan comes from the Malay/Indonesian for “man of the forest”. Of the apes, the orangutan is the only ape from Asia. They currently live only on two islands, in Malaysian Borneo and Sumatra, Indonesia. There are two species that are very closely related, Pongo pygmaeus abelii, the Sumatran and Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, the Bornean. Recently in 2009, a large number of previously unobserved red apes were found deep in jungle of Sumatra.

The Bornean males have enormous cheeks, a big throat sac and a big square face. Sumatran orangutans are more of a bright orange color and the males have light-colored “fu manchu” type beard or mustache. Females are about half the size of the males and don’t have such massive heads. Their color changes with age with some becoming even a dark chocolate or blackish color in old age.


Orangutan showing hands

Orangutans are the apes that likes trees best. They may stay up in the trees all the time, even drinking water from where it has collected in the hollows of trees. They have very strong hands and long arms (that can span up to 8 feet) so they are well suited for hanging around in trees. They are an endangered species as their habitat has been rapidly destroyed by palm oil production, logging and other ventures.

Orangutans are intelligent and gentle. They also seem to express emotion more like humans than any other animal. They eat mostly plant matter and like fruit the best. They are known to be fairly solitary as adults. This is probably because it may be difficult to find enough food if they stick together.

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