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Scientific Classification
  • P. pygmaeus
  • P. abelii

Although many think of them as monkeys, Orangutans are actually great apes.[1] Great apes are also known by the taxonomic classification Family hominidae, which also includes chimpanzees, and gorillas.[2] Orangutans have large heads, long arms for swinging from tree to tree, and short, curved legs.[3]



Orangutan with super long hair

Orangutans are covered in reddish-brown hair that is normally about two to four inches long. Their body is large and bulky with long, strong arms used for swinging from tree to tree and short, bent legs. Although many primates have tails, orangutans do not.

Orangutans are usually about two-thirds the size of gorillas. Male orangutans are about 3.2 to 4.5 ft and weigh about 200 pounds. Female orangutans are anywhere from 2.6 to 3.5 feet tall and weigh about 110 pounds.[4]


Orangutans have the slowest reproduction rate out of all the mammals in the world. Females are fertile for about 35 years of their life and have around 3 to 4 offspring in that time. This is because the average time gap between births is 8 years long. With birth rates that slow and our society destroying their habitat and trapping orangutans; this could be their demise.

Other factors that inhibit the reproduction rate of females are that females with infants under 4 years do not mate and the conception rate of female orangutans depends on their health. The health of an orangutan is directly influenced by their nutrition status. If orangutans eat healthy and are actively involved, then their hormones increase, and when their hormones increase then their ability to conceive increases as well.[5]


Orangutan distribution

Orangutans live high up in trees 20 to 100 feet off the ground. Orangutans only spend about 5% of their time on the ground to move from one group of trees to the next which is a very impressive amount if compared to earlier times when they spent 0%. The reason for this is thought to be because the tigers would be its main predator, but now that tigers have become extinct in Borneo, the orangutans can come out of the trees when necessary.

Although the orangutan has a very large area to hunt in; they rarely travel farther than 1 mile. Orangutans cannot travel far because of how the orangutan travels. Orangutans have a very arboreal lifestyle and travel by moving from one branch to another. Even though they are graceful, they are slow.

The orangutan is arboreal, using the trees as a defense against predators. While on the ground, Orangutans exhibit a "fist walking" behavior unlike the knuckle walking seen among the gorilla and chimpanzee.

Orangutans construct two nests per day. The first one they create in the afternoon and that is for short naps. Every night they construct a stronger sleeping nest high up in the trees. This nest is made out of rather large branches with leaves on them. The orangutans have become so skilled in their nest making abilities that they can construct their night nest (which looks like a giant birds nest) in around 5 minutes. If it is raining, the orangutan will create a covering and slide it over its nest to help keep it dry.

At one time in history, orangutans could be found almost everywhere in Southeast Asia. Since then they have become more and more sparse because of hunting and deforestation. As shown in the map on the left, orangutans can only be found on the islands of Borneo and northern Sumatra. [6]

Illegal Pets

Hundreds and maybe even thousands of baby orangutans have been smuggled into Taiwan to be kept as pets. Taiwan has been attempting to fight this by requiring the registration of all pet orangutans and it is now illegal to own a unregistered orangutan. Recently the government has been trying to rid their society of all illegal orangutans and return them to their natural environment or to a place where they can be cared for such as a zoo.[7]


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