Distribution: The Indonesian island of Sumatra
Description: Orangutans have a coarse, shaggy reddish coat. Males look very different to females. An adult male is larger and has a throat pouch and flanges (cheek pads) on either side of its face. Orangutans have very long arms that can stretch as far as 2.6 m. Their hands and feet are used for grasping.
Diet: Orangutans are omnivores. Fruits are their favourite food but they also eat other parts of plants, as well as honey, lizards, termites, birds and eggs.
Breeding: Females usually give birth after 12–15 years of age and the interval between births is an average of nine years.
The young suckle for five to six years. Females may stay with their mum a further six years to learn valuable mothering skills. Males leave their mother at about seven years of age and travel large distances to set up their own territory. Females tend to stay in the same area as their mother when they mature.
Threats: Around 80% of orangutan habitat has been lost to logging and permanent agricultural conversion, in particular for oil palm plantations. Orangutans are also shot for taking food from the plantations and poached for the illegal pet trade. There are believed to be fewer than 6,300 Sumatran Orangutans left in the wild.
At Perth Zoo: Perth Zoo has bred 29 orangutans since 1970 as part of an Australasian breeding program. Perth Zoo also directly supports the conservation of the Sumatran Orangutan in the protected Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia. Projects we support include the reintroduction of orangutans into Bukit Tigapuluh, Wildlife Protection Units, habitat and wildlife monitoring, and community education and development.
Did you know? ‘Orangutan’ is Indonesian for ‘Person of the Forest’.
If you would like to help orangutans in the wild, make a donation to Perth Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Action.