Sumatran Orangutans

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Orangutans, or Orang Hutan in Indonesian meaning Forest People (Orang - man, Hutan - forest). Orangutan are apes - closely related to humans, are 97% genetically identical to humans. Orangutans were once widespread throughout south east Asia but now are limited in the wild to 2 places on this planet, Sumatra and Borneo. Fossils have been found to show that they were once living as far as southern China.

It's thought to be that there are only around 7300 left in the Sumatran wild and expected to become extinct in 2020 - that's only 13 years from now! The orangutan are confined entirely to the the northern area of Sumatra where there are extensive forest reserves, mainly the Gunung Leuser National Park.

At Bukit Lawang there is the Bohorok Rehabilitation centre were orangutans are reintroduced into the wild. The Bohorok Rehabilitation centre was setup in 1972, similar to the Sepilkok Rehabilitation centre in Sabah North Borneo by Barbara Harrison in 1964. This centre was setup as a forest station where young apes confiscated from illegal captivity by authorities, could be systematically rehabilitated for life in the wild.

Orangutan are solitary animals, coming together for mating and minimal social interaction. Their diet consists of mainly vegetarian items like fruits, nuts, plant shoots and tree bark. They have been observed eating some small insects like termites, bird eggs and small mammals.

Orangutan can travel several kilometers per day looking for food and make a new nest each night in a tree for sleeping.

At birth the orangutan is already covered with reddish-orange hair, thick and long at the back but much thinner in front. Almost immediately after birth the baby clings face-inwards to it's mother's body, so the mother's warmth passes readily to it through the bare abdominal skin.

The infants stay with the mother until they are 7-10 years old. The females gain fertility at around 10 years old and remain fertile until they are 30 years old. They generally only have babies every 6 years. Adult males play no part in rearing the young. Pregnancy lasts about 9 months with the female giving birth to a tiny baby of about 3 pounds. During it's first 5 to 6 months the baby clings to it's mother day and night. At 4 or 6 months the baby will begin small excursions of its own, keeping close enough to it's mother to be able to hang on again quickly.

Other than Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra they are also found in Tanjung Putin and Kutai National Parks in Kalimantan, Indonesia as well as Sarawak and Sabah Borneo (East Malaysia).

Adbul - Male Orangutan at Bukit Lawang

Orangutan in Zoos around the world

Perth Zoo Australia

Perth Zoo is part of a captive breeding program of the Sumatran Orangutan.

On 20th October 2007 saw the birth of Nyaru, the first baby of 14 year old Negara. Perth Zoo's Leif Cocks said the baby boy was doing very well and Negara was a great mum.

Perth Zoo recently celebrated the 12th anniversary of it's release of Temara, a female orangutan into an Indonesian National Park.

There are many charities around the world worth donating money to to save the orangutan and Sumatran wildlife. Some of these are:

Orangutan Foundation International

Australian Orangutan Project

Currently funding projects like:

Anti logging patrols

The orphan care centre in Kalimantan

The lamandau rehabilitation centre

Peat swamp restoration in central Kalimantan

Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah


Last updated 12th July 2008


















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