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Bornean Orangutan 1Bornean Orangutan 1Kansas City Zoo in Kansas City, Missouri

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CLASS: Mammalia (Mammals)

ORDER: Primates (Lemurs, Lorises, Tarsiers, Monkeys, Apes, and Humans)

FAMILY: Hominidae (Orangutans, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, and Humans)

GENERA and SPECIES: (According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Bornean Orangutan- Pongo pygmaeus

Sumatran Orangutan- Pongo abelii 

Tapanuli Orangutan (Discovered in November 2017!)- Pongo tapanuliensis 

Sumatran Orangutan 7Sumatran Orangutan 7Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina, Kansas

LIFE SPAN: Orangutans can live 30-40 years in the wild, and 50-60 years in captivity.

HABITAT: Orangutans live in the tropical rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo in southeast Asia.

DIET: Orangutans primarily eat fruit and leaves, but they also eat bark, nuts, insects, and, on occasion, bird eggs. The fruit of the diurnal tree is an Orangutan’s favorite food. This large fruit has a foul odor and tastes like garlic flavored cheese, but Orangutans love this fruit so much that they have been known to sneak into people’s yards to pick it!

Bornean Orangutan 2Bornean Orangutan 2Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska


A male Orangutan is called a male Orangutan (no special term exists)

A female Orangutan is called a female Orangutan (no special term exists)

A young Orangutan is called a baby or an infant

There is no term for a group of Orangutans as these apes do not live in groups

In Malay, the word “orang” means “person” and “utan” is derived from the Malay word “hutan”, which means “forest.” Therefore, “Orangutan” literally means “person of the forest.”

Orangutans are the only apes that live in Asia. The other three great apes – Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and Bonobos– all live in Africa

Orangutans are the largest beings on Earth who live in trees. Adult male Orangutans spend over 90 per cent of their time in the canopy, and adult females spend even more time than that in the treetops. 

Orangutans can stretch their arms out wider than their bodies are long – up to 8 ft. from fingertip to fingertip for very large males!

Unlike other higher primates (monkeys, apes, and humans), Orangutans are semi-solitary in the wild. Once they reach maturity, these apes spend most of their time alone, or, in the case of females, with their young off-springs. Mature adult males are the most solitary of these apes- spending more than 90 per cent of their time alone. 

Adult male Orangutans grow cheek pads (also called flanges), which outline their faces and make their heads look larger. In the wild, male Orangutans may not develop their cheek pads until they are 30 years of age. But in captivity, males as young as 13 grow cheek pads. Once a male Orangutan has grown his cheek pads, he won't tolerate being around any other adult males and will compete with them for access to receptive females.

Female Orangutans produce children approximately once every 8 years. Infants stay with their mother for 6 to 7 years, until they have learned how to survive on their own. During this time spent together, a very special bond develops between the mother her child.

Sumatran Orangutan 9Sumatran Orangutan 9St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri


According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the conservation status of Orangutans is as follows:

Bornean Orangutans are Critically Endangered, which means that they are at a critical risk of becoming extinct in the wild. The IUCN states that these apes suffered a drastic population loss of 60% between 1950 and 2010, and that they are projected to undergo a further decline of 22% between 2010 and 2025.

The biggest threats to the existence of Bornean Orangutans are the destruction, degradation and fragmentation of their habitats as well as hunting. Approximately once every decade, forest fires (especially in peat forests) cause additional severe losses to the Bornean Orangutan population.

Sumatran Orangutans are Critically Endangered, which means that they are at a critical risk of becoming extinct in the wild.

High levels of habitat conversion and fragmentation and illegal killing are the biggest threats faced by the Sumatran Orangutans. The area of their forest habitat was reduced by 60% between 1985 and 2007, and it is believed that this reduction will continue. Large portions of the Sumatran Orangutan’s range are seriously threatened by agricultural plantations, logging, mining concessions, as well as illegal settlement and encroachment by humans. Additionally, new roads are constantly being cut through their habitats.

Tapanuli Orangutans are Critically Endangered, which means that they are at a critical risk of becoming extinct in the wild.

The chief threats to the survival of these apes are to the severe reduction and fragmentation of their habitats and illegal killing. The territory of the Tapanuli Orangutans was reduced by 60% between 1985 and 2007, and it is believed that this habitat loss will continue for the Tapanuli Orangutan as the forests within their range remain under immense threat from habitat conversion for small-scale agriculture, mining exploration and exploitation, agricultural plantations, and other sources.

Bornean Orangutan 5Bornean Orangutan 5Kansas City Zoo in Kansas City, Missouri


Educate yourself about Orangutans and their circumstances by reviewing the materials presented below in the Resources section and other materials you may be able to find on your own.

Post messages on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and send emails to your family and friends expressing your concern for the plight of the Orangutans and encouraging them to become involved as well.

Write letters to your elected officials in Washington DC, to leaders in nations where Orangutans live, and to leaders in non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) that work in the fields of wildlife conservation and wildlife management explaining why the conservation of Orangutans is important to you and encouraging these officials to work to help keep Orangutans from ever becoming extinct in the wild.

Help to improve the environment around you and around the world by working to reduce, recycle, and reuse. This will help eliminate waste and will greatly improve the world in which we all live.

And when you shop at Joe’s Cowtown Photos, you can designate Orangutan-centric programs and initiatives such as the World Wildlife Fund’s Adopt an Orangutan Program, Orangutan Foundation International and the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) as the beneficiary of the charitable portion of your purchase. (For more information on Joe’s Cowtown Photos charitable giving program, Cowtown Photos Cares, click here!)

Sumatran Orangutan 8Sumatran Orangutan 8Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina, Kansas


Orangutan Foundation International

Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS)

Discover Wildlife: 10 Amazing Orangutan Facts You Need to Know

National Geographic: 10 Orangutan Facts

Live Science: Facts About Orangutans

Orangutan.com: Orangutan Facts

Easy Science for Kids: Fun Facts About Orangutans for Kids

The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species Bornean Orangutan page

The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species Sumatran Orangutan page

The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species Tapanuli Orangutan page

The White House Page

The United States Senate Page

The United States House of Representatives Page

Bornean Orangutan 15Bornean Orangutan 15Kansas City Zoo in Kansas City, Missouri


The information provided in this Animal Info page was compiled by Joe Hoffman (St. Pius X Elementary School Class of 1986 and Founder/Owner of Joe’s Cowtown Photos) and was proof-read and edited by Anita Striegel (Retired 8th Grade Teacher from St. Pius X Elementary School- Joe’s former teacher!)


To access the Animal Info main pageclick here!