Bornean Orangutans (pongo pygmaeus)

Pongo pygmaeus, meaning ‘Person of the forest’ , are endemic to the island of Borneo. They are one of two species of orangutan and are endangered along with their Sumatran counterpart, appearing on the the IUCN red list. This list features the worlds most at risk species and unfortunately these intelligent creatures now need urgent action to stop the population rate falling further.

These highly intelligent beings are the largest arboreal species on earth today. They make great mothers and they share 96.7% of our DNA. They can use tools and teach their young how to survive in the forest, they have been known to escape many a time from a seemingly secure enclosure, if a suitable tool has been carelessly left within their reach. Some captive orangutan have been taught sign language and are able to communicate with their handlers. Wild orangutan are mainly solitary, shy creatures and prefer to stay up in the tree tops where they can keep an eye on things.

Orangutan babies stay with their mothers up until they are around 8 years of age. The young males then usually start to move to new areas and the females tend to stay close to their mothers. An orangutan mother would teach a baby how to live in the forest, ie how to choose the right fruits and how to make a nest. Adult male orangutans are famous for their flanges, or cheek pads, and these dominant males tend to father more infant orangutan than other sub adult males. These cheek pads develop when an orangutan is around 20 years old and can make him look quite foreboding as these males are huge! These flanged males can be very aggressive and they emit the famous long calls, something their non flanged counterparts cannot do. They are double the size of most female orangutan and a third larger than sub adult males.

Habitat loss and illegal logging are the main threats to the survival of this species as this decreases the areas they can travel to and the supply of food needed to feed themselves and their young.  Even if orangutan are lucky enough to be rescued from a situation where they are starving or near populated areas, then there is also the problem of release, as sites are getting more and more scarce.

There have been many orangutan deaths in the human- orangutan conflict but there have also been successful rescues and releases too. This is due to the commitment and determination of the good orangutan centres who are fighting a constant battle to help conserve the remaining wild population.