The endangered orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) is the world’s largest tree dwelling animal and the only great ape species native to Asia. The other great ape species, gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos, are native to Africa. Orangutan populations are especially vulnerable due to their small geographical range; they are found only in tropical and swamp forests on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
The greatest threats affecting the orangutan populations are human-related and include habitat loss and illegal collection. Although there are approximately 40,000 orangutans within Borneo and Sumatra, existing threats are rapidly reducing their population. Orangutan habitat is currently being converted into large scale palm oil plantations. The palm oil industry is responsible for destroying thousands of acres of rainforest which once served as a home to orangutans and other endangered animals including Sumatran tigers and rhinos. This habitat encroachment has resulted in a loss of over 3,000 orangutans each year! Orangutans are also illegally collected from the wild and thousands have been sold as exotic pets over the past 10 years.
The AZA Ape Taxon Advisory Group and the Orangutan Species Survival Plan® Program manage over 210 orangutans at 51 AZA-accredited zoos. Biologists at AZA-accredited zoos are currently researching the nutritional and behavioral requirements of orangutans to optimize their ex situ management and reproductive success. Researchers are also engaged in studies that assess the memory and cognitive processes of these highly intelligent animals.
||Orangutans are between 4 and 5 feet tall and
weigh between 125 and 235 pounds. Males
are larger than females.
||Orangutans are reddish-brown, and some males
grow white or yellow beards. Their have bare faces, shaggy hair, long arms, and
curled fingers and toes.
||Orangutans are found only in the tropical rain
and swamp forests of Sumatra and Borneo.
||Orangutans feed primarily on forest fruits,
including durians, jackfruits, lychees, mangos, and figs.
||Females give birth every 7
to 9 years, and have a gestation period of 9 months.