The orangutan is the only strictly arboreal ape and the largest tree-living mammal in the world. Although other apes do climb and build sleeping nests in the trees, they are primarily terrestrial (spending their lives on the ground). Even the bright reddish-brown hair colour is unique to the orangutan.
They have the most remarkable ability to travel through the forest trees. Each night building a new nest out of leaves and branches in the trees – sometimes as much as 30 metres (100 feet) above the ground.
Almost all of the food they eat grows in the tree and the frequent rains fill the leaves, supplying them with drinking water. When water is difficult to find, orangutans chew leaves to make a sponge to soak up the droplets in tree cavities. When it rains hard, they been observed making umbrellas out of big leaves.
Depending on the habitat, some orangutans also descend to the ground to drink water or eat other vegetation, i.e. the Eastern subspecies of Bornean orangutans is more terrestrial than the other subspecies.
Recent studies show that some orangutans fashion tools to aid in the difficult task of foraging for food and have even been observed using sticks to catch fish.
Orangutans emit a variety of calls and vocalisations, including the long call of males to attract females or discourage other males, and the kiss-squeak, often made when observers get too close. You can listen to these and other calls via Zurich University’s Department of Anthropology.
How Can You Help
There are lots of ways you can support orangutans and help ensure the survival of this precious ape.
Adopt an Orangutan
Orangutans are endangered and at risk of extinction. Habitat destruction means hundreds of orphan orangutans need to care for every year. You can help by adopting one. Their dedicated ‘nannies’ teach them everything they need to know for when it’s time to release them back to the wild. You can follow their progress through Forest School.Adopt Now
Make a Donation
Please help the Orangutans in their struggle for survival. Your donation is important and goes directly to BOS Indonesia. By donating, you are helping bring this noble yet endangered species back from the brink of extinction and on a path to freedom - from rescue to rehabilitation and release.Donate Now
Visit Our Shop
The perfect gift for any occasion! Choose from our selection of instant gifts that directly support our orangutans. You can buy a wheelbarrow, provide food for an orangutan for two months or lots more. You will receive a certificate, personalised with the name of your choice - perfect gift for you or a friend.Shop Now