Published on Dec 29, 2019

Orangutan Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

The word Orangutan comes from the Malay and Indonesian words ‘Orang’ meaning ‘Person’ and ‘Hutan’ meaning ‘Forest’

The Orangutan is one of the largest of the ape species, it has a large muscular body covered in long reddish-brown hair, very strong arms, short bowed legs and no tail (the tail is how the distinction is made between apes and monkeys). Orangutans are approximately 6 times stronger than the average man. As the male matures, large disc shaped cheek pads develop and the normal hairless face can often grow hair, which develops into a moustache. The voice deepens to enable the loud and distinctive mating calls to attract females.

Males and females differ in size and appearance, with a male standing up to 1.7m tall having an arm span of about 2m, as opposed to a female who stands to just 1.3m.


Orangutan’s hands have four fingers and an opposable thumb, but are completely different when compared with a humans hand due to the variations in the joints and tendons. This difference helps the orangutan when travelling through the trees. The other major difference between a humans hand and an orangutans hand is, when relaxed a humans hand is flat with straight fingers, whereas the Orangutans fingers remain curved, creating a grip that looks like a hook, this enables them to easily grasp branches whilst the hand is relaxed. Their feet also have an opposable big toe so they can use them as a second pair of hands to grip things. Their hips have the same range of motion as their shoulder and arms giving them a far greater level of flexibility.

Orangutans are among the most intelligent primates and use a variety of sophisticated tools for food collection, nest building and even playing. These apes have been extensively studied for their learning abilities. Orangutans are one of the only primates that build toys for themselves!

Family Life

Orangutans are the most solitary of the great apes with social bonds occurring primarily between mothers and their dependent offspring; they stay together for the first five or six years. For the first two years the infant is totally dependent on the mother.

The next three years are spent learning the necessary skills of foraging for food, nest building and avoiding natural predators – mum teaches the infant the dangers of snakes and anything else that may cause them harm.

After five years the infant is then fully weaned and starts to find independence, moving further and further away for longer periods of time, until eventually becoming independent and a self sufficient young adult.

The young adults tend to travel in small groups, but this ends when they reach full maturity, they then only come together with others to mate, which for a female doesn’t happen until they are around 15 years old.

The pregnant female has a gestation period of 9 months, they then mother the infant for 6 years this puts her at about 22 before she may have a second baby, but with a life span of just 30 years, time can run out for a second pregnancy, which is another reason for the decline of the population.

An Orangutan’s Natural Habitat

Orangutans are only currently found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Orangutans spend the majority of their time in trees far more so than any of the other apes.

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