Orang Utans

Man of the forest

Orangutans (from the Malay phrase Orang Hutan, “man of the forest”) live in Southeast Asia, on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. 10,000 years ago, Orangutans ranged as far north as China, and as far south as Java in Indonesia. Now they are only present on the islands of Borneo (estimated population: 22,000) and Sumatra (estimated population: 5,000).

The Orangutan is the largest tree-climbing animal in the world. It has evolved for life in the trees, with both hands and feet adapted for gripping branches. Although arboreal, male Orangutans have been known to spend between 4 and 5 hours on the forest floor.

Why are they endangered?

The greatest threat to Orangutans is habitat loss due to mechanised logging. Under ideal conditions, these solitary animals roam the forest in search of widely distributed food sources. The reduction of suitable habitats is forcing Orangutan populations into smaller areas, which cannot support them. In addition, Orangutans have a slow reproductive rate. Females have only one baby every 7 to 8 years.

Young Orangutans are also threatened by poachers who capture them to be sold as pets. The mother is often shot in order to gain access to the baby.

1,000 years ago Orang Utans ranged as far north as China and as far south as Java in Indonesia. Now they are only present on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Best estimates suggest that only around 22,000 and 5,000 remain on these islands, respectively.


How do they live in the wild?

Unlike their close relatives, the chimpanzees and gorillas, Orangutans do not live in large social or family groups. Semi-solitary animals, the adult males are usually found alone and adult females are generally accompanied by one or two offspring. Adolescent Orangutans are the most sociable, spending up to half of their time in small groups (between 2 and 5 individuals).

Adult male Orangutans are much larger than adult females. They are able to grow to 5 feet in height and average 120 kilos in weight. Adult females, on the other hand, only grow to about 4 feet in height and 45 kilos in weight. Unlike females, adult males also have large cheek pads and a large pouch of skin under their chin.

Orangutans eat leaves, barks, buds, stems, fruit and will occasionally eat insects, although they are mainly frugivorous (fruit eaters). Pregnancies lasts for about eight and a half months. Usually only one infant is born on average of one every seven to eight years. Only very rarely are twins born.

Infants stay with their mothers until they are about 7 or 8 years old, as they have a lot to learn before they can survive in the forest without their mother. Female Orangutans achieve sexual maturity between the ages of 9 and 12 years, while males do so between 8 and 15 years. However, development of the adult male secondary sexual characteristics (cheek pads and throat pouch) may sometimes be delayed until they are twenty years old.


What can be done to help?
Rehabilitation Centres, such as those in Sepilok, have been set up to accommodate confiscated pet Orangutans. The aim of the rehabilitation centre is to guide the young Orangutans through their development and ultimately return them to the forest. Many such Orangutans have already been successfully returned.

For more information about Orang Utans and their conservation, please visit the following links:

Read more about the Foster an Animal Programme 

Phone

(60 88) 797 888

Fax

(60 88) 792 777

Location

Pantai Dalit Beach, Tuaran, Sabah, 89208, Malaysia

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