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The Orang-utan

The Orangutan is the only Great Ape native to Asia rather than Africa.  The Gibbon and Siamang are classed as Lesser Apes.

There are two species of Orang-utan; Pongo pygmaeus from Borneo and Pongo abelii from Sumatra. There is still some arguments about whether these are true bio species or subspecies.

Social Behaviour

The Orangutan is the least social of all the Apes.  The only group that lasts a reasonable time is a mother and her children. The young Orangutans live with their mother for about 7 years.

The male and female adults only stay together for a few days when mating.
However, in some circumstances, Orangutans are capable of living as a group.


Violence by Orangutans towards Humans is unusual unless the animal is provoked, but it can occur between the animals.  Males are especially likely to be violent to each other.

Immature males will sometimes try to force females to have sex with them.

Tree Loving

Orangs live in the trees more than any other Great Ape.  Possibly one reason for this is that they seem to dislike being killed and eaten by Tigers.

They are smaller than Gorillas, and are often alone so while a troop of Gorillas are not an easy prey for a lion, as Tiger could easily kill an Orangutan.  Of course, Tigers can climb trees, but they are not as good at it as this ape.

Tool Using

Like Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Bonobos; Orangutans use tools quite a lot.  These tools are often wooden although stone tools are used as well.


Although the Orang-utan is mostly herbivorous they certainly eat some animals as well as birds’ eggs and insects.


The nearest relatives of the Orangutans are Humans and the African apes.  The Gibbons and Siamang are further from Orangutans. Orangutans are equally as far from the African apes as they are from Human Beings.


Like most apes, Orangutans do not swim although some have been observed wading in quite deep water. All the Great apes walk more on four legs than two although they have varying abilities to walk on two legs.  When it comes to wading, the one best adapted to this is the Bonobo because it walks in a more upright position than any other ape. The Orang-utan is less upright. 

Another advantage the Bonobo has for wading over the other Great Apes is that it is the most lightly built, so it is taller for its weight.  It is interesting to note that Humans are better built for wading than any ape.

Pongo abelii

Picture by Tbachner

Pongo pygmaeus

Picture taken by Ltshears at Louisville Zoo