Endangered Orangutans

The word orangutan comes from Malaysian language and it means “man of the forest”. They are often called red apes because of their reddish hair. Orangutans are highly intelligent and gentle. They are the largest tree dwelling animals in the world. They live about 100 feet above the rainforest grounds on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The orangutan is critically endangered. Orangutans have lost a lot of their habitat over the past ten years. If we don’t help the orangutan soon they will be gone forever. This report will tell you all about the orangutan.


The orangutans are easy to recognize among the large apes because of their bright red hair. They also have very long arms and a male’s arms can span up to 7feet long. They have hook shaped feet, which help these apes climb and swing from tree to tree with ease. They basically spend most of their time in the trees.

They even sleep in the trees. The male orangutan can be easily identified because it is twice as big as the female and has large cheek pads, which are called flanges. The male also has a beard and a large pouch that hangs from his throat. This helps him to make load roars to warn other males and it is a mating call to females. The male weighs around 200 lbs and the female weighs around 100 lbs. Orangutans share 97% of the same DNA as humans. Their hands, feet, eyes, and teeth look very similar to ours. They orangutan lives 40 to 45 years in the wild. They are the closest living relatives to humans.


Ten thousand years ago orangutans were found in Southeast Asia and Southern China. Their population was in the hundreds of thousands. Today they are only found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and their population is only around 45,000.

The orangutan lives in the canopies of the tropical Montane forest, Heath forest, Peat Swamp forest, and lowland Dipterocarp forest. They spend most of their time swinging from tree to tree, but can walk on the ground similar to the way humans walk.


The orangutan eats mostly fruit, which makes up 60% of their diet. They are mostly herbivores but they also eat insects such as termites and crickets. They use tools made out of sticks to get termites from under the ground. Their favorite food comes from durian trees. This food is said to taste sweet, cheesy, garlicky and custardy. They like to eat bird eggs, young leaves, shoots, seeds and bark. Nearly 60% of their daylight hours are spent looking for food. The weight of a female orangutan is 90 to 110lbs. and a male is 200 to 220lbs.


Orangutan reproduction rates are very slow. They have 1 baby every 7 or 8 years. Orangutan mothers are very good at raising their babies to adulthood. They teach them how to climb, which foods to eat, and how to survive in the jungle. The mother stays with her babies for an average of eight years, but they are completely independent by age 10. Orangutans have a low mortality rate.


The orangutan’s worst enemies are humans and human activity. Other animals that are enemies of orangutans are tigers and the clouded leopard. Man is destroying the forests by clearing the timber for farming and for settlement. The increased population has made for less land for the orangutans. In 1997 a real dry spell burned a lot of Indonesia and destroyed the orangutan habitat. T he orangutan was also hunted for its meat and young apes were captured for the illegal pet trade. Orangutans become too big and strong and do not make good pets.

Reasons for Endangerment

Today, there are less than 45,000 surviving Orangutans in the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra.

Man has destroyed the timber and settled too closely to the orangutan’s home. Orangutans need 10,000 acres of land to survive. Another reason they are endangered is because man has hunted them for meat and traded them in illegal pet trade. The orangutan reproduces very slowly. A female gives birth every 7 or 8 years. This is why orangutans are very slow to recover from any disturbances to their habitat.

Conservation Efforts

The orangutan needs a lot of help. The OFI (Orangutan Foundation International) the SOS (Sumatran Orangutan Society) and the WORC (Wanariset Orangutan Reintroduction Center) are just a few of the rescue organizations. They are working to stop illegal logging, illegal pet trade and the rehabilitation of captured orangutans for release back into the wild. We can help too. We can donate money to conservation groups working to save the orangutan habitat. We can also avoid buying wood products that come from the trees in the tropical rainforest. Examples are rayon wood, teak wood and palm oil from the trees. Other things we can do are to recycle old cell phones and adopt an orangutan. These non-profit organizations along with our help will protect the endangered orangutan.


Sadly, orangutans are in serious danger of becoming extinct. Humans have destroyed their homes through logging, burning, farming, and illegal pet trade. Today there are less than 45,000 orangutans left in the world. Some say the orangutan will be extinct in 2018. We must do what we can do to protect them. Their survival depends on you!

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