Whatís so special about an orangutan? Their eyes hold a story that is mysterious and yet intuitively we relate to them. Just one look into those eyes and you are hooked. The orangutanís anatomy, geographic range and habitat type, food habits, behaviors, and locomotor patterns make the species unique while sharing some features with other primates. However, currently Indonesia is facing a threat to its orangutan population. Loss of habitat, illegal hunting, and the notorious pet trade all pose a threat to the orangutan population and the biodiversity of Borono and Sumatra. Many scientists have theories of how the orangutan can be saved, but all agree that Indonesian deforestation should be slowed and rehabilitation centers can be used to provide some assistance to Indonesia so not to compromise its environmental biodiversity.
Surprisingly, this large, gentle red ape is actually our forgotten relative; we share 97% of the same DNA. Indigenous peoples of Indonesia and Malaysia call this ape Orang Hutan literally translating into English as "People of the Forest". (Harrison, 1982: 83) In times past they would not kill them because they felt the orangutan was simply a person hiding in the trees, trying to avoid having to go to work or become a slave. Currently, two subspecies are recognized: Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus in Borneo, and P.p.abelii in Sumatra.
There are four great ape species: gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans. Only the orangutan comes from Asia; the others all come from Africa. The orangutan is the only strictly arboreal ape (and the largest tree living mammal in the world) the rest of the apes climb and build sleeping nests in the trees, but are primarily terrestrial. Even the hair color of the orangutan, a bright reddish brown, is unique in the ape world.
The orangutan has the most remarkable ability to swing through the forest treetops. They make their home in these trees and build nests each night out of leaves and branches in the very tops of the trees. This is where they live and sleep - sometimes as much as 100 feet above the ground. The orangutan has little need to come down from the trees, as they are uniquely adapted for their arboreal lifestyle.
Almost all of the food they eat grows in the treetops and the frequent rains fill the leaves, thus supplying their drinking water. When water is difficult to get, they chew leaves to make a sponge to soak up the water. When it rains very hard, the orangutan makes an umbrella out of the big leaves of diptocarp trees. Many people are familiar with the studies that have shown chimpanzees using tools, such as termite-fishing sticks. Recent studies show that orangutans also frequently fashion tools to aid in the difficult task of foraging for food. (Courtenay, 1988: 136) Orangutans have four hands instead of two hands and two feet. This makes them graceful and swift while swinging through the trees but also makes walking on the ground very slow and awkward. This is why the orangutan is at a great disadvantage on the ground. Consequently, the orangutan rarely comes down from the treetops. They only come down if there is a need to find food and drink elsewhere as in a drought or fire.
The orangutan has the longest childhood dependence on the mother of any other animal. The babies nurse until they are six. The young males may stay close by their mothers for a few more years but the females may stay until they are well into their teens, allowing them to observe mothering skills as they watch their younger sibling being raised by the mother.
Food is often scarce in the rainforest and that is why the orangutan is a semi-solitary creature, living with just the mother and baby and maybe one sibling most of the time. They must spread out through the forest in order to secure enough food. In times of great abundance of food, some orangutans use the opportunity to socialize and may gather in small groups.
Their diet is made up of fruit, bark, leaves, and a variety of insects. The mothers teach the babies what food to eat, where to find that food, in which trees and during which seasons. It is thought