Information About Orangutans
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Information About Orangutans

An informational article about orangutans

Orangutans are part of the ape family and are our one of our closest relatives, sharing 97% of our DNA. Their intelligence is compared to that of a 5 or 6 year old child.

The Malay word Orangutan means “person of the forest”.

Orangutans are only found on the two Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. They are two separate species of orangutan and can be differentiated between as the Samartran orangutan is smaller in size and often has a longer face, lighter hair and a longer coat. It is estimated that there are fewer than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild and they are listed as critically endangered. The Bornean orangutan is listed as endangered with only around 50,000 remaining in their natural habitat. It is believed that extinction in the wild is likely within the next 10 years for the Sumatran orangutan and soon after for the Bornean if something is not done soon prevent further deforestation. Vast areas of the orangutans’ habitat are being cleared daily for palm oil. With over 1million kilograms being exported into Australia every year.

Orangutans play a crucial role in keeping the rainforests alive. By swinging from tree to tree they actually spread tree seeds allowing them to germinate and creating the necessary environment for thousands of rainforest flora and fauna.

Orangutans spend around 90% of their time in the trees, so it’s not surprising that most of their diet consists of fruits and leaves found in the tree tops. They will also feed on bark and insects. Most of their water intake comes from these succulent fruits; however they will also drink from rivers and streams.

Orangutans sleep in nest which they build high up in the trees (usually around 30m or more). Pregnancy lasts around 8 and half months and when the time comes the mother will give birth in this carefully constructed nest. A mother will carrying her young on either her front or her back until it reaches the age of around 3 years when the juvenile will start to climb and search for food of its own. Female orangutans will often care for their young for anywhere up to ten years, usually lest for males. Due to this long maternal investment there is often an 8- 10 year time-span between births, resulting in only 3 to 4 offspring being produced in a female orangutans life time.

Orangutans are more solitary than most apes and swing through the forest making howling calls to ensure that they stay out of each other’s paths. Some of these calls have been recorded to be heard more than 2 kilometres away. Sexually developed male orangutans develop large cheek pads which it is believed helps extend the range of their vocalizations, as well as the use of their throat sacs which both the male and female have.

An orangutan is more than 7 times stronger than a human and can live for more than 40 years.

Like humans orangutans have individual finger and toe prints which they can be identified by. Both the thumb and big toe of the orangutan are opposable which enables them to grasp and manipulate objects.

An adult male oragutan can weigh between 50 –90kgs and an adult female between 30-50kgs.


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