Orang utans, the People of the Forest, are found only in the rainforest islands of Borneo, Indonesia, and Sumatra, Malaysia. We visited the orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, in the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, Borneo.
Wild orangutans are endangered. Approximately 50,000 orangutans inhabit the forests of Asia. Threats to wild orangutan populations include:
- habitat destruction by major agribusinesses that ravage massive tracts of land for logging;
- intensive monoculture palm oil plantations; and,
- illegal poaching for the pet trade.
Orangutan ancestors diverged from the African great apes 16 to 19 million years ago then, migrated into Asia. Chimpanzees share 99% of their genetic makeup with humans and gorillas share 98% of their genome with humans. Although orangutans share only 97% of this DNA with humans, a small portion of orang DNA matches that of humans more closely than the DNA of chimpanzees.
Orangutans are among the most intelligent primates. The two Sumatran orangs housed at the Atlanta Zoo enjoy playing games on a touch-screen computer. A 2008 study by V. Dufour et al determined that the two orangutans at the Leipzig Zoo can determine the costs and benefits of gift exchanges using calculated reciprocity, which involves weighing and keeping track of these over long periods of time. This has not been documented in any primate other than humans.
Orangutans are the most solitary of the great apes. Social bonds occur primarily between mothers who nurture their dependent offspring for the first two years of an infants life.
How can YOU help? Right here in our Canadian home we have primatologist Dr. Birute Galdikas, one of Dr. Louis Leakey’s Trimates. Dr. Galdikas has studied the wild orangs of Kalimantan since 1971. Currently, she is a Full Professor at Simon Fraser University, B.C. You can help her work by supporting the Orangutan Foundation International Canada.
OFI Canada works in three ways:
- to help local people;
- to conserve rainforest habitat; and,
- to protect the orangutans of Indonesian Borneo as well as other wildlife.
OFI Canada supports the conservation, protection, and understanding of orangutans and their rain forest habitat while caring for ex-captive orangutan orphans as they make their way back to the forest.