10 Amazing Orangutan Facts

They are the world’s largest tree-climbing mammal, they’re scarily similar to humans, highly intelligent, and they have a gentle nature…BUT their forest habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia is rapidly disappearing, putting their future in peril. Meet the orangutan, one of the world’s most iconic species that is threatened by extinction at the hands of humanity.


10 Amazing Orangutan Facts

By Stephanie Savopoulos

Here are 10 amazing orangutan facts that you need to know:


10) Orangutans are close relatives of humans

Orangutans are great apes and are the closest living relative to humans, sharing 97% of their DNA with us. Orangutans are semi-solitary creatures; and are known for their gentleness, patience, intelligence and inquisitive nature. According to Jeffrey Schwartz, an anthropologist at the University of Pittsburgh, and John Grehan, the Director of Science at the Buffalo Museum of Science; the physical, behavioural and fossil data points to a great similarity between humans and orangutans. Schwartz and Grehan said that humans share at least 28 unique physical characteristics with orangutans, but, contrastingly, only two with chimps and seven with gorillas.

9) Orangutans are facing extinction

Orangutans are faced with numerous threats, including habitat loss, illegal pet trade and poaching. Huge tracts of the orangutan’s habitat have been cleared, largely for palm oil plantations. WWF estimates that 50% of all packaged supermarket products contain palm oil, and orangutans have lost approximately 80% of their forest home in the last 20 years due to the increasing demand for this product. Palm oil represents one of the biggest threats to orangutans.

8) Orangutan means person of the forest

The name ‘orangutan’ derives itself from the Malay word ‘orang’ which means ‘person’ and ‘hutan’ which means ‘forest’. When put together, ‘orangutan’ translates to the ‘person of the forest’.

7) Orangutans have opposable thumbs

Similar to humans, orangutans have opposable thumbs and big toes. The orangutan boasts tremendous strength (roughly seven times stronger than an adult human) and they are able to swing themselves effortlessly from branch to branch.

6) Orangutans love fruit

Orangutans can hold and eat food while swinging from branch to branch. Without intention, this action helps the regeneration of rainforest vegetation by spreading seeds far from their parent trees. The orangutan diet is made up of bark, leaves, flowers, a variety of insects, and most importantly, over 300 kinds of fruit. Fruit makes up nearly 90 percent of the orangutan’s diet is made up of fruit. The orangutan can spend up to 6 hours a day eating or foraging for food.

5) Orangutans are arboreal

Their hands and feet make them agile and graceful when they are climbing through trees, however when walking on the ground, they can be slow and awkward. This is why, when they are on the ground, they are at a great disadvantage and so they rarely come down from the treetops.

4) Orangutans can be vocal

Orangutans emit a variety of calls and vocalisations including the ‘long call’ which males perform to attract females or to discourage other males. They also execute a ‘kiss-squeak’ call which is often made when predators approach.

3) Orangutans live for up to 45 years in the wild

The life span of the orangutan is about 50 years in captivity and 30-45 years in the wild.

2) There are two species of orangutan

There are two species of orangutan; the Bornean orangutan, and the Sumatran orangutan. In addition, the Bornean species is divided into three subspecies.

1) Orangutan populations are rapidly decreasing

100 years ago, there was thought to be over 300,000 orangutans living in the wild. Now, there are less than 14,600 Sumatran orangutans and less than 54,000 Bornean orangutans. Last week, the IUCN declared the Bornean orangutan Critically Endangered.

How You Can Help

Boycott any products that list palm oil as an ingredient (unless it is ethically sourced). See our article on palm oil, here.
Support our partner charity, Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia here.
You can save your very own orangutan in our mobile game app, World of the Wild! Click here to download.
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