There are two distinct species of orangutan: one living on Sumatra and one on the island of Borneo. Both species are recognised as critically endangered.

As with all the great apes, orangutan are incredibly intelligent and use their vast intellect to ensure survival in the complex habitat of the tropical rainforest. They have adapted to an almost completely arboreal lifestyle too, and are the largest mammal by far that makes a life for itself high up in the jungle canopy.  They are able to store complex maps of their environment in their memories, and will know the location of many fruiting trees throughout their range. Orangutan will plan their travels through the forest to arrive at specific fruiting trees just in time to catch them at the beginnings of fruiting – something not many humans could accomplish!

Their complex life in the canopy is one of the reasons that orangutan infants stay with their mothers for so long. Orangutan have the longest inter-birth interval of all the mammal, having just one baby every 7-10 years. This is the primary reason why conservation of this species is so challenging, as it is incredibly difficult for orangutan to recover from even the smallest loss of population. The main threats to these animals are habitat loss, pet trade and conflict with humans. Baby orangutan are still a valuable commodity, both in the tourism industry and as pets. Mothers are killed in order to liberate babies for trade, and many babies die in this process.

There have been many documentaries publicising orangutan babies in the rehabilitation centres, and often people are unaware that orangutan are very large and powerful animals from a very young age. Dominant males commonly weigh over 100kgs, and look significantly different to adult females with much longer hair, a bulkier frame and huge cheek pads. They produce a sound called the ‘long call’, which announces their presence in the forest both to potential mates and to potential competitors. Though people are often motivated to visit the rehabilitation centres on account of the babies, they often leave being far more impressed by the dominant males.

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