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Orangutans (Pongo) are a genus of great apes found in the jungles of Malaysia and Indonesia. The name comes from the Malay and Indonesian expression “Orang Hutan,” which means “forest person.” Orangutans spend most of their lives in the trees of the rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra. Unlike the other two great apes (gorillas and chimpanzees) found in Africa, orangutans are exclusive to Asia and only found in the mentioned locations. Below are ten interesting facts and trivia about orangutans!

Orangutans are the heaviest arboreal animals…

Orangutans spend a significant part of their lives swinging through the canopies and require large forest areas to find enough food and companions. Deforestation and hunting are the biggest threats to orangutans. Borneo alone is estimated to lose 220,000 square meters of forest between 2010 and 2030 – almost 30% of its total land area, which is larger than the entire size of the United Kingdom. The good news is that studies have shown a slowdown in deforestation in Borneo, and Indonesia and Malaysia are imposing stricter forest protection requirements. [source]

They have incredibly long arms for facilitating tree climbing…

Orangutans have an arm span of approximately 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) from fingertip to fingertip. Considering their standing height is around 1.2 to 1.5 meters (3.9 to 4.9 feet), this is an impressive reach. Their arms are so long that they are one and a half times longer than their legs and extend to their ankles when they stand. [source]

Orangutans have an arm span of approximately 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) from fingertip to fingertip. Considering their standing height is around 1.2 to 1.5 meters (3.9 to 4.9 feet), this is an impressive reach. Their arms are so long that they are one and a half times longer than their legs and extend to their ankles when they stand.

Longest interbirth interval of any land mammal…

Young orangutans stay with their mothers until they are around seven years old. During this time, they learn everything from their mothers, including what is good to eat. Due to this extended learning curve, orangutans only give birth once every seven to nine years, which is the longest interbirth interval of any land mammal. [source]

Distinguishing features between males and females…

Some adult male orangutans develop flaps of fatty tissue on both sides of their faces called “flanges“, which develop when they reach full maturity. Like all great apes, an orangutan has a long lifespan and can live over 30 years in the wild – many even live up to 50 years. Studies have shown that some females consider the males’ flanges when choosing a partner. [source]

Some adult male orangutans develop flaps of fatty tissue on both sides of their faces called "flanges", which develop when they reach full maturity. Like all great apes, an orangutan has a long lifespan and can live over 30 years in the wild – many even live up to 50 years. Studies have shown that some females consider the males’ flanges when choosing a partner.

They can use tools…

Some Sumatran orangutans use tools, such as sticks, to extract termites, ants, or bees from tree holes. These intelligent creatures have also been observed creating a “glove” out of leaves when handling prickly fruits or branches. [source]

Primarily frugivorous but can eat other peculiar things in emergencies…

Orangutans primarily eat fruits such as mangoes, lychees and figs, but they also feed on leaves, flowers, insects and even small mammals. Fruits make up approximately 60% of an orangutan’s diet, but when fruits are scarce, they also consume some peculiar items like soil and bark. A large spiky fruit called durian is their favorite fruit – it is infamous for its strong odor, which has been likened to sewage, rotten meat, and smelly socks. Yam-yam-yam… [source]

Human’s closest relative…

Orangutans are one of humanity’s closest relatives – in fact, we share nearly 97% of the same DNA sequence! On the other hand, humans share over 60% of the same DNA with a banana too… [source]

Orangutans are one of humanity’s closest relatives – in fact, we share nearly 97% of the same DNA sequence! On the other hand, humans share over 60% of the same DNA with a banana too…

Their lifestyle differs from other great apes…

Unlike other great apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos, these agile apes do not prefer living in groups. A female usually has one (or two) offspring with her, but males prefer to live alone. [source]

There are three – not two – orangutan species…

Three species exist now – Previously, it was believed that there were only two species of orangutans: Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). However, in 2017, another species was discovered: Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis), which occurs in the Tapanuli region, south of Lake Toba, in Sumatra. [source]

Three species exist now – Previously, it was believed that there were only two species of orangutans: Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii). However, in 2017, another species was discovered: Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis), which occurs in the Tapanuli region, south of Lake Toba, in Sumatra.

Excellent swimmers but don’t prefer it…

Orangutans are excellent swimmers. Despite their size and predominantly arboreal lifestyle, they can swim long distances between islands in search of food and new areas to explore. However, swimming is not something orangutans prefer, and they prefer to stay in the trees. [source]


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