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orangutang seeds

Bornean and Sumatran orangutans differ a little in appearance and behavior. While both have shaggy reddish fur, Sumatran orangutans have longer facial hair. Sumatran orangutans are reported to have closer social bonds than their Bornean cousins. Bornean orangutans are more likely to descend from the trees to move around on the ground. Both species have experienced sharp population declines. A century ago there were probably more than 230,000 orangutans in total, but the Bornean orangutan is now estimated at about 104,700 based on updated geographic range (Endangered) and the Sumatran about 7,500 (Critically Endangered).

Orangutan

Facts

Known for their distinctive red fur, orangutans are the largest arboreal mammal, spending most of their time in trees. Long, powerful arms and grasping hands and feet allow them to move through the branches. These great apes share 96.4% of our genes and are highly intelligent creatures.

The name orangutan means “man of the forest” in the Malay language. In the lowland forests in which they reside, orangutans live solitary existences. They feast on wild fruits like lychees, mangosteens, and figs, and slurp water from holes in trees. They make nests in trees of vegetation to sleep at night and rest during the day. Adult male orangutans can weigh up to 200 pounds. Flanged males have prominent cheek pads called flanges and a throat sac used to make loud verbalizations called long calls. An unflanged male looks like an adult female. In a biological phenomenon unique among primates, an unflanged male can change to a flanged male for reasons that are not yet fully understood.

Bornean and Sumatran orangutans differ a little in appearance and behavior. While both have shaggy reddish fur, Sumatran orangutans have longer facial hair. Sumatran orangutans are reported to have closer social bonds than their Bornean cousins. Bornean orangutans are more likely to descend from the trees to move around on the ground. Both species have experienced sharp population declines. A century ago there were probably more than 230,000 orangutans in total, but the Bornean orangutan is now estimated at about 104,700 based on updated geographic range (Endangered) and the Sumatran about 7,500 (Critically Endangered).

A third species of orangutan was announced in November, 2017. With no more than 800 individuals in existence, the Tapanuli orangutan is the most endangered of all great apes.

Orangutang seeds
Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

Sumatran Orangutan

Facts

Derived from the Malay words for “person of the forest,” Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered.

Map data provided by IUCN.

The Sumatran orangutan is almost exclusively arboreal, living among the trees of tropical rainforests. Females virtually never travel on the ground and adult males do so rarely. Sumatran orangutans are reported to have closer social ties than their Bornean cousins. This has been attributed to mass fruit on fig trees, where groups of Sumatran orangutans can come together to feed. Adult males are typically solitary while females are accompanied by offspring.

Historically, the Sumatran orangutan was distributed over the entire island of Sumatra and further south into Java. The species’ range is now restricted to the north of the island with a majority in the provinces of North Sumatra and Aceh. Of the nine existing populations of Sumatran orangutans, only seven have prospects of long-term viability, each with an estimated 250 or more individuals. Only three populations contain more than 1,000 orangutans. Orangutans that were confiscated from the illegal trade or as pets are being reintroduced to Bukit Tigapuluh National Park. They number around 70 and are reproducing.

Orangutans in Sumatra learn to live in the wild

At the Frankfurt Zoological Society’s Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, orangutans are rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Rescued orangutans learn how to feed and fend for themselves in the lowland rainforests of central Sumatra—skills they never had the chance to pick up from their mothers.

Why They Matter

Orangutans are frugivores and play a vital role in the dispersal of seeds over a huge area. If orangutans were to disappear, so would several tree species, especially those with larger seeds.

The tropical rainforests where Sumatran orangutans live are also home to other spectacular species including rare Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants, and Sumatran rhinoceroses.

The forests orangutans call home are a vital source for fresh water. Rivers and streams from these forests provide local communities with water for drinking, cooking, bathing, irrigation and hydroelectricity. The forests are also a valuable source for wildlife products like honey and rattan.

Threats

    Population 14,613

No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Fighting Wildlife Crime

WWF works with TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network, to help governments enforce restrictions on the trade in live animals and orangutan products. We continue to investigate the root causes of this trade and encourage stricter law enforcement.

Saving Orangutan Forests

WWF works with other organizations to stop Asia Pulp and Paper/ Sinar Mas Group from clearing the largest portion of natural forest remaining outside the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park. This unprotected forest provides crucial habitat for the Sumatran orangutan, as well as numerous other species. We helped develop a spatial plan based on Sumatra’s ecosystem to conserve the last stands of forests on the island. We also collaborate with various partners to protect forests in the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape, an important area where an orangutan population is being introduced.

WWF supports the Indonesian government’s 2009 commitment to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2020, and up to 41% with external aid. After a $1 billion pledge from Norway, the Indonesian government promised to stop granting licenses for clearing tropical and peat forests in Sumatra and elsewhere, starting in 2011. We use our expertise to help the government protect the forests and achieve emission reductions.

Mitigating Human-Orangutan Conflict

WWF works with Indonesian non-governmental organizations to mitigate human-orangutan conflict in and around palm oil plantations. A guide was developed that identifies management practices that will benefit conservation and industry.

Projects

Thirty Hills

WWF and partners secure protection for critical rain forest in Sumatra. Thirty Hills is one of the last places on Earth where elephants, tigers and orangutans coexist in the wild.