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Orangutan | Endangered Species Series

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Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)

Quick Facts:


Population: 40,000 (down from 60,000 just a decade ago)

Height: 4 to 5 ft

Weight: 73 - 180 lbs

Arm Span: males may stretch their arms up to 7 ft

Average Life Span: 30 - 40 years

Habitat: tropical rainforest

Range: Sumatra and Borneo (the only species of ape to come from Asia)

Diet: fruit, leaves, bark, insects, and on rare occasions, meat

The long-haired, orange primates are closely related to humans (sharing 97% of the same DNA) and are incredibly intelligent creatures, born with the ability to think and reason. Their enormous arm span - their hands nearly drag on the ground when they stand - makes them well-adapted to living in the trees, where they spend 90% of their time. Orangutans sleep aloft in leafy nests and use large leaves as shelter and protection from the rains of their tropical homes. They are the largest tree living mammal in the world.

Orangutans are far more solitary than other apes. Males travel around the forest alone, making frequent rumbles and howls to make sure they stay out of each others way. Their "long call" can be heard 1.2 miles away. Males will stay with a female for a few days to ensure successful mating, but will then resume their solitary life. Females and their young, however, forge a strong bond and stay together for 6 to 7 years until the baby has developed the skills to survive. Orangutans only give birth every 8 years, which is the longest of any animal.

The orangutan is the most critically endangered of all the great apes. They live in only a few places and are highly dependent on trees, so they are very vulnerable to logging in those areas. Deforestation and other human activities, such as poaching, have placed this species in great risk.

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