Part 2 - Vulnerable Species

Thank you for your encouraging comments. I shall continue! Orangutans are the slowest breeding of all primates and have the longest inter-birth interval, of any land-based mammal, almost eight years. The female orangutan reaches puberty at ten years and will normally have their first baby between the age of 12 and 15.

Mother & Infant Close Up

(Photo by Andrea Molyneaux)

Offspring are dependent on their mothers for at least five years and this means females will normally have no more than three offspring. The combination of these factors puts the orangutan population, especially small fragmented populations, at considerable risk because they don’t have the capacity to recover from disasters that may strike. A slight rise in the adult female mortality rate by just 1-2% can drive a local population to extinction.

Mother & Infant orangutan in tree

An orangutan without trees is like a fish out of water!

Orangutans are dependent on trees for their existence. They are the only great ape to be truly aboreal with females rarely descending to the forest floor. The majority of their time is spent foraging for food in the forest canopy while the rest of it is spent resting and sleeping. Orangutans build a new sleep nest every night.

Orangutans are perfectly adapted for life in the trees; their arms are much longer than their legs and their feet resemble their hands and with their highly flexible hips they can move through the forest with the greatest expertise. At 120 kg plus, a male orangutan is the largest arboreal (tree-living) animal in the world.

Male in trees

Tragically orangutan habitat is being destroyed at an alarming pace with Indonesia currently having the world's highest deforestation rate. By protecting forest areas, such as the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, Tanjung Puting National Park and Belantikan, we can help ensure that orangutans have a future in the wild.

In the next post I’ll talk about how orangutans play a key role in the forest ecosystem.