Orangutan Facts

‘Orang-hutan’ literally means ‘Man of the Forest’, and little wonder!

Orangutans are highly intelligent with an ability to reason and think. This large, gentle red ape is one of our closest relatives, sharing 98% of our DNA.

Orangutans are part of the great ape family, so they don’t have a tail and tend to be larger and heavier than monkeys, even though they are both primates. Great apes also have a bigger brain and can use tools, such as sticks, to help them get food to eat or leaves to make a sunshade or umbrella.

Orangutans live in Asia and are found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, living in lowland and hilly tropical rainforests.

There are three types or subspecies of orangutans found in Borneo:

• Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus is the most endangered species of the Bornean Orangutans with an estimated population of between 1,500 to 3,500 individuals. Found in Western Kalimantan and also in Sarawak.

• Pongo pygmaeus morio is found in the North East around Sabah and East Kalimantan, with a population estimated between 8,000 and 18,000.

• Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii is the Central Kalimantan subspecies and the most plentiful with up to 40,000 individuals.

You can only tell the difference between these three subspecies by DNA testing.

At BOS, we have all three types in our care, so when returning them to the wild we must ensure they go to their endemic areas in Indonesian Borneo.

Bornean Orangutan:                                              Sumatran Orangutan:


The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) is smaller than its Bornean counterpart and has a longer face and lighter and longer coat.


It’s estimated that there are fewer than 7,000 Sumatran Orangutans and 50,000 Bornean Orangutans living in the wild today.  The Sumatran Orangutan is listed as critically endangered and the Bornean Orangutan as endangered.

They are regarded as an ‘umbrella species’, which means they are pivotal in creating the necessary environment for the thousands of fauna and flora that make up the biodiversity of the South East Asian rain forest.

Its arboreal tree-swinging journeys help to spread tree seeds - in fact some trees can only germinate when they have passed through its gut.

To read more click on the links below:




The Great Ape Family

Orangutan Gallery

Photo credits: Gorilla:Mila Zinkova; Chimpanzee:Thomas Lersch; Bonobo:USAID; Orangutan:Karen Stenner