Basic Facts About Orangutans

Orangutans are the only great ape to live exclusively in Asia, and are one of the four species of great apes that are the closest living relatives of humans – the other three are gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos. There are two species of orangutans, the Sumatran (Pongo abelii) and Bornean (Pongo pygmaeus). 
Orangutans have thin, shaggy, reddish-brown hair and long, powerful arms with strong hands that they can use to manipulate tools. Orangutans have the ability to make 13 to 15 different types of vocalizations.


Orangutans feed mainly on fruits, especially wild figs. They also eat other kinds of vegetation, insects, small vertebrates and birds eggs.


An estimated 19,000 to 25,000 orangutans live in the wild. Another 900 live in captivity.


Orangutans are only found on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in Southeast Asia. Orangutans are arboreal creatures, which means they spend most of their lives slowly walking, swinging and climbing through dense rain forests. 


Orangutans are solitary creatures. Adult males live primarily alone and only come together with females to mate. Adult females live with their young. Occasionally, adults will live with other adults for short periods in small temporary groups.

Orangutans spend most of their lives in a "home range" of 0.4 to 3.7 square miles. Females have a smaller home range than males. Sometimes the home ranges of individual orangutans overlap.

Females are able to give birth after age seven, but in the wild they generally do not mate until age 12. They give birth to one young at a time, which clings to its mother's stomach until it is about a year old. When an orangutan reaches adolescence at about four or five years, it becomes more independent but may seek protection from its mother until it reaches seven to eight years.


The orangutan's most serious threat is the destruction of forest habitat from excessive logging. Female orangutans are also killed and their young are taken and illegally placed in circuses and zoos.