Monday, November 17, 2008



WITH LARGE, SOULFUL EYES, an expressive face and a hairy, reddish-brown body similar in size to that of an average man, the orang-utan is unnervingly human. The largest animal in the world to spend its entire life in trees, the orang-utan gets its name from the Malaysian word for 'man of the forest'. These apes are extremely intelligent and, up to the age of two, orang-utan babies actually develop in understanding at the same rate as human babies. Sadly, these remarkable animals, which are among our closest relatives, are also most endangered of all the great apes.

Passion for Fruit
Orang-utans feed mostly on fruit and leaves, using their hands and teeth to strip plants and peel fruits to expose the flesh inside. They also eat honey and supplement their diet with small animals such as lizards, termites and nestling birds and eggs. As the fruit on different trees ripens at different times, the orang-utan's intelligence and memory are vital. Armed with this knowledge, the orang utan can then plan the best route to arrive at each tree at just the right time. It drinks by lapping water, using its cupped hands.

The Vanishing Forest
The orang-utan is the most endangered of the great apes. There are about 15,000 of the Bornean orang-utans left and only 3,000 of the Sumatran species. Loss of habitat presents the main threat to their survival - forest fires, logging and forest clearance for both palm oil plantations and gold mining continue to erode the forest at a frightening rate. The apes' survival is also threatened by its slow reproductive rate - females give birth once every four to eight years. Orang-utans are now protected by law, but infants are still captured (the mother is killed) and sold illegally as pets, especially in Taiwan.

Solitary Tree Dweller
The orang-utan spends most of its life in trees, swinging from branch to branch. It even sleeps in the trees in a nest of branches and leaves, with a thick roof of big leaves if it is raining. It is mostly solitary because each individual needs such a wide range to forage for food. Orang-utans use sticks to scratch themselves, dig out termites, prise open fruit cases, or hit snakes. Chewed-up leaves act as a sponge to soak up water, and large leaves serve as umbrellas. Orang-utans communicate by lip-smacking and scream when scared. When frustrated, they seem to grind their teeth. Adult male orang-utans use their throat pouch to make a call that echoes through the forest. This 'long call' advertises their presence to females and rival males.

Treetop birth
Orang-utans mate hanging by their arms in the trees. After eight or nine months, the female gives birth, usually to a single baby, but occasionally to twins, high up in her treetop nest. The infant clings to its mother's belly fur as she travels through the trees until it is one year old. It then travels through the trees until it is one year old. It then travels on her back until it is two. Babies are nursed at their mother's breast, and, while, at four months, the baby can take soft food from its mother's lip, it is not fully weaned until well over three years old. Mother and baby will remain together for at least eight years. Daughters may stay with the mother into adolescence to learn parenting skills.

Status : Endangered
Social Unit : Individual
Height : 1.1 - 1.4 m (3 1/2 - 4 1/2 ft)
Weight : 40 - 80 kg (88 - 175 lb)
Sexual Maturity : 6 - 8 years; females have a monthly cycle like humans
Gestation Period : 233 - 63 days
Number Of Young : 1
Diet : fruit such as durian and figs, plus honey, young leaves, insects, reptiles, termites, nestling birds, eggs
Lifespan : Up to 50 years


redapes said...

Great post!

To learn more about orangutans and see how you and your readers can help protect them, I invite you to visit the Orangutan Outreach website.

Richard Zimmerman
Director, Orangutan Outreach
Reach out and save the orangutans!
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