Where do orangutans live?ORAS 023787

Orangutans live in Indonesia and Malaysia on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. These are the only places where they live in the wild.

How many types of orangutan are there?

There are two species or types of orangutan - the Bornean orangutan which is found on the island of Borneo and the Sumatran orangutan which is found on the island of Sumatra.

What does orangutan mean?

The word orangutan comes from the Malay language and means 'person of the forest' - from the words ‘orang' meaning people and ‘hutan' meaning forest.

Are orangutans apes or monkeys?

Orangutans are a Great Ape along with gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos. The Great Apes have large brains, forward-facing eyes and gripping hands. Humans are also Great Apes. In fact we share 96.4% of our genetic makeup with ORAS 023796orangutans! The easiest way to distinguish between monkeys and apes is to look for a tail. Apes don't have tails whereas most monkeys do.

What do orangutans look like?

Male and female orangutans look quite different - they both have long red hair, but males are much bigger than females. Males can be 1.5m tall and weigh as much as 120kg. Females are much smaller. They grow up to 1m tall and weigh about 45kg. 

Male orangutans grow a beard and moustache when they become adults, some male orangutans also grow cheek pads and throat pouches.

What do orangutans sound like?

The sound an orangutan makes is called a longcall. Listen to this! 


How long do orangutans live?ORAS 023915

In the wild, orangutans may live up to 45 years or more. The oldest captive orangutan was a male called "Guas" at the Philadelphia Zoo who lived until he was 58 years old!

What do orangutans eat?

Orangutans eat mostly fruit - their favourites are huge spiky fruits called Durian, these fruits smell very bad, and taste a bit like custard and garlic, but orangutans love them! Orangutans also eat some flowers, honey, bark, leaves and insects.

Where do orangutans sleep?

Orangutans sleep in nests in the trees which they make every day from leaves and branches.  Orangutans are arboreal, which means that they spend nearly all their time in the trees and hardly ever come to the ground. This makes them different from other apes like chimpanzees, gorillas and humans who all spend a lot of time on the ground.

Do orangutans live in groups? ORAS 024008

No, unlike the other great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and humans) orangutans do not like to live in groups. Female orangutans usually have 1 or 2 babies with them, but males are usually alone.

How many babies do orangutans have?

Orangutans only have one baby at a time. There is a lot to learn about life in the forest and so babies stay with their mother and learn from her until they are 7 or 8 years old - this is longer than any other mammal except humans.

Do orangutans use tools?

Orangutans make umbrellas for themselves out of big leaves when it rains, and use sticks to get honey from beehives.

How many orangutans are there in the wild?

100 years ago there were thought to be 315,000 orangutans in the wild. There are now less than 14,600 left in Sumatra, and less than 54,000 in Borneo.

It is thought that Sumatran orangutans may be the first Great Apes to become extinct unless people help to protect them.

Why are orangutans endangered?

Orangutans are losing their homes as tropical rainforests are being cut down for wood to make paper and furniture and the land is cleared to grow palm oil, an ingredient in lots of foods. Baby orangutans are also taken from their mothers to be sold as pets.

What can you do to help?Grinning boy

SOS is working for a brighter future for orangutans and their forest homes - and we need your help!

We have a fantastic schools pack, with lots of activity sheets and lessons about orangutans, rainforests and conservation, and even a special schools fundraising guide - check out our Schools page for more information, and if you're inspired to help SOS, then get in touch and let us know what you have planned!

Click here for lots of fundraising ideas!