Sumatran Orangutan


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Female Sumatran Orangutan with her baby

General Description


Sumatran Orangutans are one of the two species of orangutans. This species is found only in Sumatra, Indonesia. They inhabit lowland tropical rainforests and swamps. The Sumatran Orangutan has long reddish orange hair and long arms. Their diet consists mostly of fruits and insects.

Scientific Information


The scientific name for the Sumatran Orangutan is Pongo abelii. Sumatran Orangutans prefer to eat fruits such as figs and jackfruits. They also like to eat bird eggs and small vertebrates. They have been observed using tools to get their food. They fray one end of a tree branch and stick it in the hole of a tree to dig for termites. Sumatran Orangutans come together to feed. Adult males usually avoid contact with other males. Sumatran Orangutans are arboreal, meaning that they travel by moving through trees. Females virtually never travel on the ground and males rarely do. They usually sleep in nests built out of branches and leaves high up in the canopy.

Quick Facts

  • Have 48 chromosomes
  • Seriously threatened by logging
  • Estimated 7,300 Sumatran Orangutans still alive
  • New population is being established in the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park
  • Sometimes still hunted for food in North Sumatra
  • Orangutan means person of the forest.
  • Males: 200 pounds and 4.6 feet tall
  • Females: 100 pounds and 3 feet tall
  • Have been isolated from Bornean Orangutans for over a million years
  • Average lifespan in the wild: 35 years

Link to Another Topic: Deforestation

One of the factors that has affected the Sumatran Orangutan population is deforestation. Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a non-forest use. Bukit Lawang is a small tourist village at the bank of Bahorok River in North Sumatra. It is known for the largest animal sanctuary of Sumatran Orangutans. On November 2, 2003, it was hit by a flash flood. The disaster was a result of deforestation and illegal logging. Around 400 houses, 3 mosques, 8 bridges, 280 kiosks and food stalls, 35 hotels and guest houses were destroyed by the flood. 239 people were killed and around 1,400 locals lost their homes. The site was rebuilt and re-opened again in July 2004.
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Baby Sumatran Orangutan
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Adult male Sumatran Orangutan
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Sumatran Orangutan at Bukit Lawang
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Orangutan being taken care of by man at Bukit Lawang


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This map highlights the northern tip of Indonesia. This is where Sumatran Orangutans live.


MLA Citations
Singleton, I., Wich, S.A. & Griffiths, M. 2008. Pongo abelii. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. Web. 8 Mar. 2011. <www.iucnredlist.org>.
"Sumatran Orangutan." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 8 Mar. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumatran_Orangutan>.
"ARKive - Sumatran Orang-utan Videos, Photos and Facts - Pongo Abelii." ARKive - Discover the World's Most Endangered Species. ARKive. Web. 8 Mar. 2011. <http://www.arkive.org/sumatran-orang-utan/pongo-abelii/>.
"Oregon Zoo Animals: Sumatran Orangutan." Oregon Zoo | Portland, Oregon. 2005. Web. 8 Mar. 2011. <http://www.oregonzoo.org/Cards/Primates/orangutan.sumatran.htm>.