The Orangutan

An Endangered Species In Need of Help

History of The Orangutan

The word orangutan (also written orang-utan, orang utan and orangutang) is derived from the Malay and Indonesian words orang meaning "person" and hutan meaning "forest",thus "person of the forest."The orangutans are two species of great apes known for their intelligence, long arms and reddish-brown hair. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, they are currently found only in rainforests on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, though fossils have been found in Java, Vietnam and China.

The Orangutan's Habitat

Orangutans are found in Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. These apes were once widespread throughout mainland Asia during the Pleistocene. Orangutans prefer a habitat that exists along waterways and in lowlands because of their high dependence on fruit. Biologists have described their habitats as inaccessible, swamp logged, tropical forests. The islands of Borneo and Sumatra have vast mountain ranges and Orangutans are rarely seen in elevations that exceed 500 meters.

The Orangutan's Diet

Over 50% of an Orangutan's diet is made up of fruit. Orangutans travel as far and as fast as they need to in their home ranges to find food. Although fruit is their primary food source, Orangutans have been known to eat up to 400 different things! When the Orangutan is not spending time resting or sleeping during the day, they are foraging for food. This is necessary because Orangutans have a high caloric need and high quality food is not always readily available. Orangutans belong to the group of Primates called "Nutcracker Primates" which crack open hard-coated fruits for food. In the wild, Orangutans have shown intelligence by using leaves of trees as gloves when handling fruit covered in sharp points.

Why Orangutan's Are Endangered

Orangutans are losing their habitats due to the harvesting of palm oils. Most of the lowland forest on Borneo and Sumatra is gone, and Orangutans and other forest species are being forced into higher elevation forests. These forests are not as productive as lowland forests and can not support the same density of animals. Poachers also abduct baby orangutans, around 8,000 a year; Unfortunately, only 2,000 survive and make it into the pet market from the harsh conditions the young orangutans must endure. They shoot the mother in this process as well, resulting in over 6,000 mother orangutans killed.