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Orangutan, Bornean

Orangutan at the LA Zoo Photo Credit Tad Motoyama

Scientific Name: Pongo pygmaeus

In the Malay language, the word orang means person and utan means forest, so their name means “person of the forest.”

Loving Mothers

Orangutans have the closest mother-offspring relationships of all nonhuman primates. Offspring remain with their mothers for seven or eight years.  Adult males are the most solitary of the apes, whereas females travel with their youngsters and at times with other females as well.

They are endangered due to habitat loss and capture for the illegal pet trade. Their rainforest homes are rapidly declining due to illegal logging, mining, farming, oil palm plantations, and human overpopulation. Orangutan populations have declined more than 50 percent in the last decade.

Orangutans are found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

Orangutans spend most of their time traveling through the trees in search of ripe fruit. They also eat flowers, young leaves, bark, eggs, and termites. They have to travel vast distances to find their food, the availability of which changes during different seasons.

Orangutans are the largest tree-dwelling mammal. They are similar to humans in their anatomy, physiology, and behavior. They are intelligent, can make and use tools, and show evidence of distinct cultural patterns. They have excellent color vision, opposable thumbs, big toes, and grasping hands.

They have long, shaggy, orange-red hair.  The males are about twice the size of the females with an arm span of over seven feet.  Males have large throat pouches under their chins, used to make their “long calls” to attract females and tell rival males to keep away. Dominant males have large cheek pads; subordinate males in the same area will not develop cheek pads until they find their own territory.

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