Introduction to Orangutans

This large, gentle red ape is one of humankind’s closest relatives. The orangutan’s hair color, which ranges from orange to reddish-brown, is unique in the ape world. 

Orangutans share nearly 97% of the same DNA with us humans! Orangutans are known by the indigenous (native) people of Indonesia and Malaysia as “orang-hutan”, which translates to “person of the forest” in English.

The Great Apes

“Great apes” is a taxonomic (classification) family of primates that includes orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and modern humans. Of all of the great apes, the orangutan is the only one that comes from Asia, with the rest coming from Africa!

Orangutans as a Species

Credit: Eric Kilby Aiwok, Tim Laman

There are 3 separate species of orangutan:

  • Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus)
  • Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii)
  • Tapanuli Orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis)

The species that we call Tapanuli orangutans was re-discovered in 2017 but sadly was recently classified as the most endangered great ape species.