Of only two islands in the world: Sumatra (in Indonesia) and Borneo (in Malaysia and Indonesia).
They are the largest arboreal (tree dwelling) animal in the world, reaching heights of four to five feet and weights of 125 to 235 pounds or more. Orangutans are reddish-brown in color and some males grow white or yellow beards. Also characteristic are their bare faces with round eyes and small ears; their long, shaggy hair; long arms; and curled fingers and feet.
Males are much larger than females and develop large pads on their cheeks called “flanges” and large throat pouches at the age 15 to 20. They spend most of their time in trees and subsist mainly on fruit, leaves, flowers, buds, bark and insects.
The current population of orangutans is less than 60,000 individuals (about 53,000 in Borneo and roughly 6,000 in Sumatra). They are gravely threatened to extinction due to habitat destruction (logging, farming, gold mining) and poaching for the exotic pet trade. When poached, mothers are killed, and if baby survives the fall of mother from tree, the baby is taken by poachers.
One of the biggest threats today to orangutans is palm oil. Virgin forests where orangutans live and find all their food are cut down in order to plant the cash crop for palm oil. This oil is widely used in foods and consumers should be aware of ingredients in cookies, ice cream and other foods and not buy products that use palm oil. More threatening now is the use of palm oil in bio fuels. Nearly 5,000 orangutans a year have been killed or died over the past few years as palm oil plantations take up their habitat.
What threats do orangutans face?
Asia’s only great apes are threatened by rapid deforestation and devastation of their habitat, mainly due to palm and other agricultural plantations.
Young orangutans, in particular, are also imperiled by the illegal pet trade and mothers often killed as poachers snatch their young.