Orangutan Species Information and Facts

Fossil evidence suggests that during the Pleistocene era (between around 1.8 million years and 11,500 years ago) orangutans lived throughout much of Southeast Asia, from Java in the south, up into Laos and southern China.

There are three separate species of orangutans and all are critically endangered due to the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of their forest habitat. Recent estimates put the Bornean orangutan population at approximately 57,000 individuals, the Sumatran orangutan population at around 13,000 and the Tapanuli species at close to 800 individuals.

The Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) is found only on the island of Borneo and is has three sub-species Northwest Bornean Orangutan (P. p. pygmaeus); Southwest Bornean Orangutan (P. p. wurmbii); Northeast Bornean Orangutan (P. p. morio).

The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) is found on the island of Sumatra but its range is restricted to in and around the Leuser Ecosystem, in Aceh and North Sumatra Provinces.

The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is found on the island of Sumatra but its range is restricted to the Batang Toru Ecosystem of North Sumatra.

Male Bornean Orangutan Male Sumatran Orangutan

 

 

The three species show slightly different physical characteristics. Sumatran orangutans have a narrower face and longer beard than the Bornean species. Bornean orangutans are slightly darker in colour and the males have wider cheek pads than their Sumatran relatives. The dominant males of the Tapanuli orangutan have prominent moustaches and longer and more booming calls than the other species. The females of the Tapauli orangutans have beards. Behavioural differences have also been observed between the species; Sumatran orangutans are more frugivorous (fruit-eating) and have exhibited tool use.

Mother and Baby Orangutan

 

 

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