Orangutans, also called the “gardeners” of the forests, play a vital role in their habitats. As of 2017, orangutans are now classified as critically endangered, with about 119,313 orangutans remaining in the entire world. August 19th is also known as International Orangutan Day. In celebration of the holiday, here are 5 interesting orangutan facts and how you can help save them from extinction.

Orangutans are known to be the only great apes of Asia. They were originally native to Malaysia and Indonesia about 15 million years ago, but can now only be found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

orangutan eating

Photo: lindy15 via Pixabay

Why are orangutans orange?

The orange-reddish brown colored fur of the orangutan is a result of sunlight reflecting off their fur. In the shade, their tan skin absorbs the light so you only see the dark skin underneath. Camouflage? Experts are still debating this question. This is only one of the most interesting orangutan facts!

Orangutans have the most intense mother-child relationship

Mother orangutans have the most intense relationship with their young of any non-human mammal. During the first eight years of a young orangutan’s life, its mother is its constant companion. Mothers will carry their offspring for the first five years until they are ready to thrive on their own. They will also sleep in their nests with their offspring in a forest canopy nest.

baby orangutans

Photo: Bjorn Vaugn via Greenpeace.org

Orangutans love solitude

Orangutans are the most semi-solitary primates in the wild. Their social structure is often described as “solitary but social”. Many adult orangutans will spend most of their time alone or may travel in groups. Females are often seen with their offspring. Most orangutans spend over 90 percent of their time in solitude.

You can only see them in two places in the wild

There are two types of Orangutan species – the Bornean and Sumatran. While both species have shaggy reddish fur, the Sumatran orangutans have longer facial hair. The Sumatran orangutans are also smaller, slightly lighter in color, and have narrower faces in contrast to the Bornean orangutans. Female Sumatrans almost never travel on foot, while the males only do so rarely. Bornean orangutans, especially adult males, will more often be seen on the ground.

Orphaned Orangutan

Orphaned orangutan housed at Frankfurt Zoological Society orangutan rehabilitation centre within the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape in Jambi, Sumatra

Orangutans are ticklish

Did you know they are ticklish? Not the itchy kind, but the type that brings on the giggles? Well, considering that they are one of our closest relatives among animals, it’s a quirky but not surprising fact! They’re also the smartest animals in the world.

Similar to gorillas, orangutans are the most gentle-natured animals among the ape species due to their social structure. They will often be seen sitting for hours simply gazing amongst the forest or at each other. Males can be aggressive, but orangutan attacks on humans are virtually unheard of.

Young Orangutans hugging in Nyaru Menteng Orangutan reintroduction project near Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan. Nyaru Menteng Orang-Utan Auswilderungsprojekt bei Palangka Raya in Kalimantan auf Borneo. Auffangstation der Organisation BOSF (Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation). Junge Orang-Utans (Pongo pygmaeus) umarmen sich.

Young Orangutans hugging in Nyaru Menteng Orangutan reintroduction project near Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan

How You Can Help Save Orangutans: 

Over one quarter of Indonesia’s forests have disappeared in the past 25 years. This needless destruction drives the conditions that fuel big forest fires. Destroy the tropical rainforest by expanding pulpwood and oil palm plantations, and you destroy the home of the lovable orangutans. Threatened with extinction, the population of the Sumatran orangutan in the wild is thought to have fallen by more than 50% from 1992-2000.

Brands who use palm oil must stop hiding behind promises and pledges, instead they must start delivering real change on the ground to protect forests and prevent another forest fires crisis. To demand real commitments, real timelines and real action to make sure palm oil companies stop putting lives at risk by destroying forest and peatlands, please sign this petition:

End deforestation and protect orangutans from extinction

Share this orangutan facts story on Facebook and speak up for these gentle apes now.

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