Orangutan | Exploring the World of Wildlife: facts about the Orangutan

Orangutans are ancient great apes belonging to the subfamily Ponginae. Genetically, they are considered to be the closest to humans. They differ from great apes in that they have a distinctive facial expression. They are calm and peaceful to such an extent that human activities do not harm them, leading to a reduction in their numbers.

For a long time they were classified as subspecies of the same species, and it was not until the twentieth century that scientists determined that they were different species. It was not until nineteen thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven that specialists discovered another species, the Tapanula orangutan, and only in two thousand seventeen was it officially recognised. The species is found on the island of Sumatra. However, the subspecies is genetically closer to the Kalimantan subspecies but not to the Sumatran subspecies.

Compared to chimpanzees and humans, the DNA of these animals changes much more slowly. According to scientists, genetic analysis suggests that orangutans are animals that are closer than other modern hominoids to their distant ancestors.

Fact number one.

Most male Orangutans have warts on their cheeks, indicating they can mate with females. In the case of Sumatran orangutans, only the dominant males have cheek warts, indicating that they can mate with a select group of females.

Fact number two.

There are three species of orangutan: Sumatran, Kalimantan and Tapanula. Naturally, all three species are protected, as the most numerous species could be on the brink of extinction. According to scientists, Orangutans should have been extinct from the face of the planet three to four decades ago, as evidenced by their declining population trends. Fortunately, orangutans are not extinct, but there has been no change for the better and the situation could spiral out of control at any moment. The natural habitats of orangutans are declining every year. Oil palm plantations are springing up where orangutans used to live. Deforestation increases every year and this does not go away. Poaching is also having a major impact on the orangutan population. Tens of thousands of orangutans have been killed by humans in recent decades.

Fact number three.

The name ‘orangutan’ comes from the cry ‘orangutan’, a term used by locals to alert their tribesmen to the arrival of these animals. Translated, it means ‘forest dude’. In the former Soviet Union, they were known as «orangutans» and even today such sightings occur. In fact, it is not the official name, but in Malay, the word (orangutan) means «debtor».

Fact number four.

Orangutans also communicate with each other through gestures — observations have revealed about six dozen recognisable gestures. There are about six dozen of them. They use gestures to draw attention to an event. They use gestures to invite their congeners to inspect each other’s fur.

Fact number five.

Orangutans are capable of making unconventional decisions, as evidenced by research. A captive female Nemo has demonstrated her ability to build a hammock. The study is notable because orangutans have demonstrated the ability to tie knots.

Fact number six.

The orangutan’s diet consists mostly of plant food in the form of leaves of various tropical plants, young shoots of various vegetation, tree bark, buds, fruits of many trees, and nuts. Orangutans love honey, so they look for places where wild bees swarm, despite the dangers that await them. They eat honey without sinking to the ground, unlike other monkey species that sink to the ground. An orangutan will only appear on the ground if it sees something tasty and will not eat grass. The diet also includes animal food, represented by insects and their larvae, as well as bird eggs and their offspring. Sumatran orangutans prey on small primates, the lori, although this occurs in dry years when plant food is scarce. The diet of Tapanul orangutans is unthinkable without cones and caterpillars.

Fact number seven.

Female orangutans reach sexual maturity between the ages of eight and twelve, while males reach sexual maturity later, at fourteen or fifteen. Pregnancy lasts for about eight and a half months, after which one or sometimes two cubs are born. The newborns weigh between one and a half and two kilograms, are breastfed for three to four years and live with their mother for up to six to eight years. Thus, orangutans have an unusually long childhood, which is due to their way of life: other monkeys live in families or flocks after leaving their mother, while solitary orangutans need to be prepared for an independent life. Only the mother can prepare her baby for adult life: she has nowhere to observe how other primates behave.

Fact number eight.

Orangutans build nests to sleep in. Orangutans like to rest comfortably — each night they build a platform or nest to sleep in. It takes about ten minutes to build a nest: a few large branches, some smaller ones for shelter, and some flexible branches to reinforce the structure. In wet weather, orangutans sometimes attach a roof.

Fact number nine.

The average lifespan of an orangutan in the wild is thirty-five to forty years, in captivity up to fifty or more. They are widely regarded as the champion of longevity among primates (not counting humans). Orangutans have been known to live to sixty-five years.

Fact number ten.

In captivity, they can adopt human habits, including bad habits such as smoking, and even overcome fear of water. This sometimes leads to accidents, as orangutans have not yet learned how to swim.

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