10 Orangutan Facts for Endangered Species Day

  • For creatures so much like us, we sure don’t care to look after them.

There are many weird and wonderful forms of life on planet Earth. Unfortunately, a lot of them are about to drop dead.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature currently lists 41,415 species on its list of endangered animals. And today, May 19, is the Endangered Species Day.

This day is all about spreading awareness of threatened animals. So, we at Oddee decided to do our part and bring you some fun and weird facts about one of the world’s most endangered animals — the orangutan.

Let’s take a look at some things you may not have known about these jungle VIPs.

1. Orangutans are the People of the Forest

We’ve all had a morning like this. It’s like looking into a hairy mirror.

The word “orangutan” comes from the Malayan language. It stems from the words “orang” which means human or person, and “hutan,” meaning forest.

Put together, you get the “people of the forest.”

And it’s an apt name for orangutans to boot. They share some 97% of their DNA with humanity, making them our closest relatives after chimpanzees and bonobos.

2. Orangutans Can Laugh

To further solidify their status as the ladies and gents of the woods, orangutans are capable of laughter. While many animals exhibit vocalizations and behavior that could be understood as laughing, orangutans can laugh for real.

If you were to watch orangutans play or wrestle with each other, you could hear them chuckling happily. They sometimes even tickle each other — simply for a good laugh.

3. There are Three Species of Orangutans

Bornean, Sumatran, and Tapanuli orangutan. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

We couldn’t blame you if you thought all orangutans are part of one species. But there are actually three of them — Bornean, Sumatran, and Tapanuli orangutans.

There are some 100,000 Bornean and 14,000 Sumatran orangutans in the wild. The Tapanuli orangutans — recognized as a separate species only in 2017 — are the most endangered, with only 800 of them remaining.

4.  Orangutan Arms are Longer than You’re Tall

Their long arms are one of the orangutans’ most distinctive features. But do you know just how long those arms actually are?

They’re probably longer than you. Although the average orangutan stands only around four feet tall, their arm span can reach to more than seven feet!

5. Orangutans Build Houses

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Orangutans are the heaviest tree-dwelling mammals, but single branches aren’t very comfortable or safe to sleep on. So, an orangutan will build a small nest for itself every night.

An orangutan can whip up a comfy sleeping platform in 10 minutes by pulling together multiple branches and cushioning them with leaves. If it’s a rainy night, they’ll even construct a roof to keep themselves dry.

6. Lady Orangutans Like Them Thick

“Just more of me to love, babe.”

As male orangutans age, they often begin to grow in girth as well as in height. In addition to majestic moobs and rolls of fat, a male orangutan also sports flanges — rolls of fatty tissue around his face.

They’re not letting themselves go for nothing, though. There’s nothing sexier to a lady orangutan than a hefty hunk with plenty of love handles to grab onto.

7. Orangutan Kids Live in Their Moms’ Basements for Years

After a night with a gent sporting plenty of cushion for the pushin’, a female orangutan abandons her mate and wanders off into the forest. For the next seven years, she will look after her kid all on her own.

Young orangutans learn everything they need to know about ape life from their mothers — including how to use sticks and stones as tools to find food. Unfortunately, that also leads to one of the reasons for orangutans’ endangered status.

Since their kids hang around for so long, orangutans have one of the lowest birth rates out of any animal. That certainly doesn’t help when deforestation kills them in scores.

8. (Some) Orangutans Don’t Have Nails on Their Big Toes

There’s a bizarre quirk in orangutan biology. About every third orangutan never develops a toenail on their big toes.

Why? Who knows — we couldn’t find a solid answer.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that an orangutan’s feet are equally as dexterous as its hands. It’s nothing weird to see an orangutan eat with its feet.

9. Orangutans’ Favorite Food Smells Awful

Speaking of orangutan diets, they can eat insects and even small mammals, but most of their diet consists of fruit. More than 300 different fruit make up 60% of everything an orangutan eats.

But one of their absolute favorite foods is the durian. This ginormous spiky fruit is infamous for its horrendous stench, often described as a delicate mixture of rotting flesh, week-old socks, and raw sewage.

Mmh, yum.

10. Orangutans Can Become Crotchety Old Geezers

One last thing that makes orangutans a lot like us are our rather similar lifespans. An orangutan can live about as long as humans (you know, prior to us figuring out what medicine is).

On average, orangutans tend to kick the bucket by the age of 40 — but that doesn’t mean all do. Some orangutans found in the wild have lived to be more than 60 years old.

We want to believe these elderly orangutans like to sit on their branches and wave a stick while yelling at young whippersnappers to get off their trees.