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On World Orangutan Day – 10 Amazing Facts About These Critically Endangered Species

by Rima Sonigara

August 19, 2018

Learn more about these "humans of the forest!"

Happy World Orangutan Day! Ever wondered where orangutans sleep? Or where their name comes from? Here are 10 fun facts about orangutans that you can impress your friends with:

10) Orangutans only live on two islands – They can be found on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and (northern) Sumatra. 12,000 years ago you could have found them in Southern China, Indochina, Java and southern Sumatra – the species are now extinct in these regions.

9) 3 species – It was previously thought that there were only 2 species of orangutans: the Borneo orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and Sumatra orangutan (Pongo abelii). However, it was only last year that another species was discovered: the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis).

Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is the first new addition in almost a century to the small club of great apes, joining its fellow Sumatran and Borneo orangutans.

8) Nailed it – About a third of orangutans don’t have a nail on their big toe!

7) Big hugs – Orangutans are usually between 1.2m to 1.5m tall but have a longer arm span of up to 2m!

One year-old male baby orangutan Jelapat plays on the tree at Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation in Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan.

6) Humans of the forest – The word orangutan comes from the Malay language; ‘orang’ means human and ‘utan’ is derived from ‘hutan’ which means forest, so the word orangutan literally means ‘human of the forest’.

5) Basically cousins – We humans share nearly 97% of the same DNA with orangutans, making them one of our closest relatives after apes.

A mother and a baby orangutan at feeding ground in Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan.

4) Riding solo – Although we share a lot of the same DNA as orangutans, they aren’t as sociable as us; orangutans spend a lot of time on their own. After mating, the female abandons the male who has no role in caring for the baby orangutans.

3) Nest is best – Orangutans are arboreal which means they spend most of their lives in trees – they even sleep in nests in trees. Although Bornean orangutans sometimes spend time on the ground, Sumatran orangutans rarely come down to the forest floor.

2) 5 a day – Orangutans mainly eat fruit and leaves, but they are also known to use twigs as tools to scoop termites out of holes in trees for a snack.

An orangutan eating leaves at Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation in Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan.

1) The orangutan population falls by 25 everyday – The rainforests that they call home are being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, putting the orangutan population seriously under threat. Palm oil is an ingredient used to make products for brands like Unilever, Mondelez and Nestlé.  

If we don’t act, more precious habitats will be ruined and the orangutan species could be lost forever.

Here are 3 things you can do today:

If we don’t act, more precious habitats will be ruined and the orangutan species could be lost forever. Here are 3 things you can do to make a difference today:

  • Watch and share our new video about Rang-tan, a baby orangutan in trouble:

  • Add your name and tell big brands to stop using palm oil from forest destroyers

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