Orangutan: Key Facts

Did you know that orangutans are one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom? Or that they are critically endangered? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll talk more about these and other orangutan key facts.

Quick Facts About Orangutans

Scientific Name:Pongo
Type of Animal:Mammal: Primate
Number of Species:3
Physical Description:Large arboreal primate with long reddish fur and long arms. Males have dark gray to black cheek flaps, or flanges, while females do not. Both males and females have “hairlines” with dark, primarily hairless faces (though many have “beards”). They have opposable thumbs on their hands and opposable big toes on their feet; this enables them to use both hands and feet for climbing and complex tasks. 
Distribution:Found only on the Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
Habitat:Tropical rainforest
Size:3 to 5 feet tall; 65 to 200 pounds; males are generally larger than females.
Diet:Omnivorous; diet includes:
– Fruit
– Leaves
– Honey
– Insects
– Small animals
Average Lifespan:45 to 60 years

What Are Orangutans?

Orangutans are large tree-dwelling primates from the Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. There are three species of orangutan: the Bornean orangutan, the Sumatran orangutan, and the Tapanuli orangutan. 

All three species are endangered, with the Sumatran and Tapanuli (both of which are found on Sumatra) qualifying as critically endangered. Rapid habitat loss, illegal pet trade, and poaching are all responsible for their declining numbers.

These hairy red apes are highly intelligent creatures with a great capacity to learn and understand new things. Mother orangutans spend years teaching their young about which foods to eat, how to use various objects for tools, and how to build nests and raise their own babies.

Orangutans only breed once every six to eight years. Male orangutans live alone except during mating season, when they will join with females for a few days; female orangutans live with their young.

Orangutans eat a wide variety of foods, but about 90 percent of their diet consists of fruit. Some other foods they eat include leaves, honey, grasses, flowers, mushrooms, insects, and occasionally small animals such as birds and mice.

What Are Some Cool Facts About Orangutans?

  • Orangutans share almost 97 percent of their DNA with humans, making them one of our closest relatives. They are so similar to us that human pregnancy tests can be used to accurately determine whether a female orangutan is pregnant!
  • Orangutan is a combination of the Malay words orang, “person”, and hutan, “forest”; their name literally means “person of the forest.”
  • Orangutans’ arms are so long that their arm spans stretch out longer than their height. From fingertip to fingertip, their arm spans regularly reach over six feet!

Check out this video for more fun facts about orangutans!


Orangutans are endangered but highly intelligent apes from the southeast part of Asia. They are solitary creatures that live in the trees of tropical rainforests and spend much of their time foraging for food and teaching important life skills to their babies. Check also this article about orangutan vs gorilla.

Read also about other forest mammals – here are our guides about armadillo, beaver.

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