Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)


Family:                    Pongidae.

Status:                     Critically endangered.

Size:                        Height 3 to 4 ft., 80 to 175 lbs.

Diet:                        Omnivore.

Characteristics:        Intelligent, gentle, active by day.

Area:                       Borneo, Sumatra. 

Offspring:                One baby every three to six years.



·         Orangutan means “man of the jungle” in Malay, an Indonesian language.

·         It is illegal to kill, own, or export orangutans.

·         Clyde, the orangutan in the Clint Eastwood movie, Any Which Way You Can, died soon after completion of the film due to maltreatment by his owner/trainer.

·         Orangutans shelter themselves from rain and sun by holding leafy branches over their heads.



These animals are amazingly like humans, not only because of their intelligence and capability for learning, but due to their affectionate natures and desire to be hugged. The orangutan has a placid, gentle nature and in captivity has shown incredible ingenuity, learning symbols to represent words as well as displaying an exceptional ability to manipulate mechanical objects. In the wild, orangutans spend most of their time in trees, using all four limbs to swing from branch to branch. Adult males spend more time walking on the ground than other orangutans, because the branches of smaller trees can’t hold their weight. Older orangutans tend to be solitary, but youngsters socialize and play with each other. Orangutans eat mostly fruit, but also leaves, soft bark, nuts, flowers, insects and eggs. Orangutans store fat to prepare for the heavy rains which occur from April to October, when food becomes scarce. Males and females are easily distinguishable from each other—not only are males much larger, but they have a bag-like skin flap hanging from the throat which allows them to make loud calls through the forest.


Although orangutans once lived in the jungles of Southeast Asia, they were wiped out by hunters and now live only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in the lowland swamp and forests. They are an endangered species due to past excessive hunting as well as the destruction of their habitat—including large-scale logging and the burning of forests. It is illegal to kill or own orangutans, but poaching has continued, with people capturing them for pets or to put on display at a hotel or public establishment. In 1997 and 1998, massive forest fires on Sumatra and Borneo killed thousands of orangutans and destroyed the habitat of many thousand more, endangering their survival.



A female who is ready to mate will seek out a mate, and the couple will stay together for several days until the female becomes pregnant. The two then go their separate ways. Pregnancy lasts almost nine months, and occurs once every three to seven years. Mothers and infants have a warm, loving relationship and can often be seen cuddling. The infant stays close by his mother for his first two to three years, then begins to become more and more independent until he can finally go his own way at about eight years of age. Mother orangutans sometimes pair up with other mothers for short periods of time so their youngsters can play together. Orangutans can live over 30 years in the wild, and up to 50 in captivity.