February 2, 2024 7:35 am

Sarah Pye

25 Amazing Orangutan Facts Every Kid Will Love

With cheeky grins, bed hair, and human-like eyes, young orangutans will steal your heart. But there’s more to these intelligent creatures than just their looks. Here are 25 amazing orangutan facts!

young baby orangutan
  1. Orangutans are great apes, along with gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos AND humans!
  2. Orangutans share 97% of their DNA with humans, which means we are almost the same.
  3. You can tell orangutans from the other great apes because they have distinctive orange hair.
  4. This might make you think orangutan means ‘orange’, but it actually means ‘man of the forest’!
  5. Like all great apes, orangutans are mammals, which means they have a backbone, hair, warm blood, breathe air, and feed their babies milk.
  6. They are the largest ‘arboreal’ mammal, which means they live in the trees.
  7. All great apes have opposable thumbs, which means their thumb is opposite to their fingers.
  8. This enables them to grip things. Without opposable thumbs, orangutans wouldn’t be able to swing on vines, or build nests.
  9. Yes! They build nests to sleep in, and they make a NEW nest every night.
  10. They also make umbrellas out of leaves when it’s raining!
  11. As you can see, orangutans are super clever. They are also pretty naughty, like the orangutan who stole Wildlife Wong’s keys in Wildlife Wong and the Orangutan.
  12. Orangutans used to live in forests all across south-east Asia. Now, they are only in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
  13. The orangutans in Sumatra have longer hair than the ones in Borneo, and they are usually a brighter orange.
  14. Male orangutans are much bigger than females. Male orangutan weight is about 130kg (285lbs). Females are only about 37kg (82lbs).
  15. Males look different too: they grow big cheek pads called flanges which look like they swallowed a dinner plate!
  16. Both make and female orangutans are really strong. They can lift more than twice their body weight. 
  17. You might think they need to eat lots of meat to be so strong, but they are omnivores, which means the orangutan diet is mostly fruit and plants.
  18. In the wild, orangutans live up to 50 years old.
  19. Females usually only have one baby at a time and wait at least five years between each one.
  20. That’s because babies stay with their mum for 6-7 years!
  21. Both Sumatran and Bornean orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This means, if we don’t do something, they will become extinct.
  22. Why are orangutans endangered? Orangutans are threatened by climate change, which is changing the way rainforests work.
  23. But the biggest threat to orangutans is deforestation, or cutting down trees.
  24. Researchers estimate 80% of orangutan habitat has disappeared in the last 20 years.
  25. Many of their trees are cut down to grow oil palms. The oil is used in all sorts of things from chocolate to shampoo.
A mother orangutan and her baby cuddling

What can you do to help orangutans survive?

Only buy things you need, and avoid using products that contain rainforest timber or unsustainable palm oil. Let these orangutan facts inspire you to make changes in your own life.

Help educate your friends about orangutans, or adopt an orangutan and help save this incredible species from extinction. One person CAN make a difference!

Dr Sarah Pye is the author of the Wildlife Wong series for 8-12 year olds. Get Wildlife Wong and the Orangutan to read about an orangutan that stole Wildlife Wong’s keys, and another called Polly, who was abandoned in the middle of a city. Then learn how to make your own orangutan nest!

About the Author

Sarah Pye is a nature and wildlife nerd. When she’s not writing or teaching, she can be found outdoors… camping, kayaking, exploring or walking with her dog Gypsy.

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