How Close Are We to Orangutans?
We share 96.4% of our DNA with the Orangutan. It makes the Orangutan one of our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the name for the ape is “Orang Hutan”. Orang means “person” and Hutan means “forest”, so the literal translaton is “Person of the Forest”.
Where Are Orangutans Found?
Orangutans were once widespread across the forests of Asia in prehistoric times, reaching as far north as China. However due to deforestation and the spread of humans, Orangutans have become extinct in many countries and now can only be found on the two islands, Borneo and Northern Sumatra. Orangutans are the only Great Ape found outside of Africa.
There are two species of Orangutan, the Sumatran Ornagutan (Pongo abelii) and the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmeaus). Both species are now classified as Critically Endangered. The two species look slightly different, the Sumatran Orangutans have slightly lighter hair, longer facial hair and the males have narrower cheek pads.
What Do They Eat?
Orangutans are the largest tree-dwelling animals on Earth. Over 90% of their time is spent in the tree-tops, eating mainly fruits such as lychees, mangoes, figs, durians and jackfruit. Over 60% of their diet is fruit, the rest comprises of young shoots and leaves, insects, soil and bark.
Why are Orangutans Particularly Vulnerable?
Orangutans breed very slowly which makes it harder for their population to recover from habitat loss and hunting. In the wild, Orangutans can live to 50 years old and females tend to have no more than 3 babies in their lifetime. A female orangutans first reproduce around 15 years old and on average give birth to a single young (occasionally twins) every 7-8 years.
The relationship between a mother and baby is extremely intense. Baby Orangutans have the longest dependence of any animal on Earth and stay with their mother for the first 7-11 years of their life.
What Do Orangutans Feel?
Just like Humans, Orangutans feel and express emotions such as joy, fear, anger and surprise. A baby Orangutan smiles at their mother, cries when hungry, whimpers when hurt and will often die of grief if not petted and nursed. Unfortunately due to poaching and the human-orangutan conflict that often arises when Orangutans have lost their habitat and forced to find food elsewhere, mothers are often killed and the young become separated. Many of the orangutans that are rescued by charities are orphans.
Orangutans have lost over 80% of their habitat in the last 20 years. The biggest threat to Orangutans is man, with the ever growing demand for land for Palm Oil plantations.