Indonesia Orangutan – Habitats and Conservation

animals. endangered animalsIndonesia is known for many unique species of animals and plants. There are so many unique and exotic animals that live in many parts of Indonesia. One of the animals that became trademarks of Indonesia is Orangutan. Orangutan is also known as Mawas in Indonesian.

Then, this species is basically a type of large sized monkey with long arms and brown or reddish hairs. Orangutan lives in tropical forest that can be found almost in any parts of Indonesia. This animal also can be found in Malaysia as well. In Indonesia, Orangutan is usually found in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The word “Orangutan” came from Malay language that means “People who live in the forest”. This is because Orangutan has appearance that looks like human. Basically, Orangutan came in two different species. The first one is Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) and the other one is Kalimantan Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). One of the most interesting things about Orangutan is that this species has really close relationship with human in kingdom level. Both Orangutan and human are belong to Animalia kingdom in animal classification. Orangutan’s DNA has 96.4% level of similarity with human’s DNA.

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Orangutan has several unique characteristics. Usually, Orangutan’s body came in quite large and bulky posture. The size of Orangutan’s neck is usually quite large as well. Orangutan has arms that are not only long but also very strong as well. Unlike the arms, Orangutan’s legs are usually quite short and have angle. Orangutan doesn’t have tail. The average height of Orangutan is from 1.25 to 1.5 meter. Orangutan’s body is usually covered by red brownish hairs. The Orangutan’s head also came in quite large size as well with mouth that is positioned quite high on the face.

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When Orangutan reaches sexual maturity, male Orangutan usually has thick temple on the both sides of his face. The anterior fontanelle of mature male Orangutan is big and the hairs on his body grow longer and also the beard will grow on the face of mature male Orangutan. Orangutan has similar senses with human. These senses are including sense of hearing, vision, sense of smelling, sense of taste, and sense of touch.

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The weight of male Orangutan is about 50 to 90 kg while female Orangutan usually has weight about 30 to 50 kg. The palm of Orangutan usually came with four long fingers and one thumb. The soles of Orangutan also came with finger configuration that is very similar with finger configuration that can be found in human’s feet.

Orangutan belongs to big monkey class just like chimpanzee and gorilla. Big monkey class classified as mammal. This class of monkey usually came with large sized brain, eyes lead to the front, and palms that can hold things.

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Orangutan belongs to vertebrata animal which means that Orangutan has spine. Orangutan also can be categorized as mammals and primate as well. There are two species of orangutan that are known so far. The first species is called Kalimantan Orangutan or also known as Borneo Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and the second species is called Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii).

The ancestors of Kalimantan Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan are different since 1.1 to 2.3 million years ago. There are three sub-species of Borneo Orangutan. These sub-species are P.p.pygmaeus, P.p.wurmbii, and P.p.morio. Each of these sub-species is differentiated based on the area of geographical distribution and also based on the size of the body.

P.p.wurmbii is also known as Central Kalimantan Orangutan. This sub-species of Orangutan live in West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan areas.Then, this sub-species of Orangutan is also considered as the biggest sub-species of Borneo Orangutan. P.p.morio is also known as Northeast Kalimantan Orangutan. This sub-species of Orangutan live Sabah and East Kalimantan areas. Its the smallest sub-species of Borneo Orangutan. Until today, there are no more Kalimantan Orangutan sub-species that can be identified.

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Orangutan can be found in tropical rain forest areas of South East Asia such as Borneo or Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Malaysia. Orangutan usually live on thick trees and make their nest by using leaves. Orangutan can live in various types of forest from dipterocarp forest (forest that consists of tall trees that produce timber and resins), hills, lowland, watershed, freshwater swamp forest, peat moss swamp, dry land above mangrove swamp, even to mount forest. In Borneo, Orangutan can be found on height of 500 meter above sea level while Sumatran Orangutan can be found on mount forest that is located above 1,000 meter above sea level.

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Sumatran Orangutan is considered as one of the endemic animals that only can be found in Sumatra. Orangutans that live in Sumatra only live on the north side of the island from Timang Gajah, Central Aceh, even to Sitinjak in South Tapanuli. The existence of this animal is protected by Regulation No. 5 year 1990 about Conservation of Biological Natural Resources and Its ecosystem. This animal is also categorized as Critically Endangered by IUCN. In Sumatra, one of Orangutan’s populations can be found on watershed area of Batang Toru, North Sumatra.

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Population of wild Orangutan in Sumatra is estimated about 7,300. In Batang Toru watershed area can be found 380 Orangutans with population density about 0.47 to 0.82 Orangutans per kilometers square. Population of Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii lesson) these days is estimated about 7,500. In fact, in 1990s, the population of Sumatran Orangutan is estimated about 200,000. The population of Orangutan can be found in thirteen geographically different areas. This condition causes the survival rate of Orangutan becomes decreased and Orangutan starts to become extinct.

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These days, almost every Sumatran Orangutan only can be found in Aceh Province and North Sumatra Province. Toba Lake became the southernmost limit of the distribution of Orangutan in Sumatra. There are only two relatively small populations of Orangutan that can be found in Southwest side of the lake which are the East Sarulla and forests in West Batang Toru. The biggest population of Orangutan in Sumatra can be found in West Leuser (2,508 Orangutans) and East Leuser (1,052 Orangutans) and also in Rawa Singkil (1,500 Orangutans). Other population that is considered has great potential to survive in long term can be found in Batang Toru, North Sumatra, with numbers about 400 Orangutans.

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Orangutan in Kalimantan that is categorized as endangered by IUCN can be categorized into three sub-species. These sub-species are Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus that live from the north side of Kapuas River to northeast of Sarawak, Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii that can be found from the south side of Kapuas River to the west side of Barito River, and Pongo pygmaeus morio. In Borneo, Orangutan can be found in Sabah, Sarawak, and in almost every lowland forest in Kalimantan, except South Kalimantan and Brunei Darussalam.

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Even though Orangutan is categorized as omnivore, most of them only eat plants. 90% of foods that are eaten by Orangutan are fruits. Other types of foods that are usually consumed by Orangutan are including barks, leaves, flowers, few types of insect, and about 300 types of fruits. Besides that, Orangutan also eats nectar, honey, and mushroom as well. Orangutan also likes to eat durian even though this type of fruit came with very sharp aroma.

Orangutan doesn’t need to leave their tree if they want to drink. Orangutan usually will drink water that is gathered in holes that are located between tree branches. Orangutan’s parents usually will teach young Orangutans about how to get foods, how to get water for drink, and various types of plants that came in different seasons. According to this habit, we can find out that Orangutan actually has complex map of the forest in their head so that they don’t have to use too much effort and waste too much time when they look for foods. The young Orangutans also can learn about various types of plants and trees and find out which types of plant that can be eaten and how to process foods that are protected by thick shell and sharp thorn.

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Other important aspect of Orangutan’s live that you should know is its predator. Basically, every living being in this world has its own predator. The biggest predator for Orangutan these days is human. This fact might shock you but it’s real. Besides human, other animals that became predator for Orangutans are including leopard, wild boar, crocodiles, python snake, and black eagle.

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Self Protecting

Like other types of primate, Orangutans have developed and adapted so that they can protect themselves from any possible danger. Basically, Orangutan is the type of animal that is very shy. Orangutan is rarely showed themselves to human or other animals that they don’t know. This is considered as one of the ways of self protecting for Orangutan.

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Female Orangutans usually gave birth at 7 to 10 years. The pregnancy can take time about 8.5 to 9 months. This is quite similar to human.

The number of baby that is usually delivered by female Orangutan is only one baby. Orangutan’s babies can take care themselves at 6 to 7 years.

Moreover, Orangutan’s dependence to their parents is the longest in all animals since there are so many things that need to be learned in order to survive. The babies are usually nurtured by their parents until they are 6 years old.

Orangutan reproduces longer compared to other primates. Female Orangutan only gives birth to one Orangutan every 7 to 8 years once. Orangutan’s age in the wild is usually about 45 years and all their life, female Orangutan only has 3 descendants. This means that Orangutan’s reproduction is relatively slow.

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Orangutan can move from tree to tree quickly by swinging on tree branches. This movement is also known as brachiating. Orangutan also can walk on two feet as well. However, it’s very rare to see Orangutan walks on two feet. Orangutan cannot swim.

Unlike chimpanzees or gorillas, Orangutan doesn’t live in a herd. Orangutan is considered as semi-solitaire animal. Male Orangutan usually can be found alone and female Orangutans are usually accompanied by some of their babies. Even though Orangutan are climbing the tress and building their nest on trees frequently, Orangutans are basically terrestrial animal (animal that spend most of the time on the ground).

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These days Orangutans are only can be found in Kalimantan and Sumatra in South East Asia. Since the place where Orangutan lives are thick forest, it’s quite difficult to estimate the exact population of this animal. In Borneo, Orangutan’s population is estimated about 55,000 while in Sumatra, the population of Orangutan is estimated about 7,500.

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The biggest threat for Orangutan these days is their habitat that became more and more limited because the rainforest area where they live has been turned into pal plantation and mining sites. Moreover, the trees are being cut down by companies that want to take the timbers.

Orangutan has been lost about 80% of their habitat in less than 20 years these days. Sometimes Orangutans are also harmed or even killed by farmers and land owners since they are considered as pest. When female Orangutan is found with her babies, then the parent will be killed and the babies will be sold through illegal animal trading. Rehabilitation center is established in order to take care of the injured Orangutan and Orangutans that lost their parents. These Orangutans are taken care of so that they can be sent back to their natural habitat.

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Land Clearing and Plantation Conversion

In Sumatra, the population of Orangutan can be found in Leuser area. This area is 2.6 millions hectare that consists of Aceh and North Sumatra. Leuser is stated as one of the most important areas of natural biodiversity and it’s pointed by UNESCO as Sumatra Tropical Rainforest Heritage in 2004.

The ecosystem on this area is combined with Gunung Leuser National Park. However, most of the Orangutans live outside the border of the protected area where the width of the forest is decreased by 10 to 15% each year because the land is turned into logging sites and farms.

Indonesia is one of the countries that came with the largest decrease of the amount of tropical forest in the world. There are no signs that show the decrease of deforestation speed. About 15 years ago, it’s recorded that about 1.7 millions hectare forest that keep logged each year in Indonesia. This amount keeps increased and in 2000 the amount of forest that is logged became 2 millions hectare.

Legal and illegal logging has brought effect to the decrease of forest area width in Sumatra. Land clearing as palm plantation in Sumatra and Kalimantan has also caused the forest logging in million hectares. All of these unprotected forest area will encounter similar treatment in the future.

The deadly conflict that usually occurs in plantation is when Orangutan’s habitat became more and more decreased due to the land clearing and logging have to find enough food to survive. This protected and endangered species is often considered as threat to the profit of the plantation because Orangutan is considered as pest and need to be killed.

Orangutan is usually killed when they enter the plantation area and destroy the plant. This is usually occurred because Orangutan can’t find any foods that they need in the forest where they live.

Illegal Trading

Theoretically, Orangutan has been protected in Sumatra thorough rules and regulations since 1931. These rules and regulations are forbid people to have, kill, or catch Orangutan. But in the reality, the hunters are still hunting Orangutan, usually for animal trading. In international law, Orangutan belongs to Appendix I from the list of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) which forbid the trading of Orangutan due to conservation status of this species in nature.

However, there are still demands for Orangutan’s babies to make the babies as pets, whether it’s local demands, national, or even international. Orangutan’s babies are very depended on their parents to survive and also in the development period. Taking Orangutan’s babies from their parents requires the hunters to kill the parents. It’s estimated that for every Orangutan’s baby that survives from hunting is represented the death of mature female Orangutan.

According to data from the WWF website, it’s estimated that already occurred the import of 1000 Orangutans to Taiwan between 1985 and 1990. For each Orangutan that arrives in Taiwan, there are 3 to 5 other Orangutans that died in the process. Orangutan trading is also reported occurs in Kalimantan where live or dead Orangutan is still sold.

Conservation Status

Sumatran Orangutan has included in classification of Critically Endangered in IUCN list. The population of Sumatran Orangutan has been decreased drastically where in 1994 the population of this animal reaches more than 12,000 but in 2003 the population of this animal became only about 7,300. Data in 2008 stated that it’s estimated the population of Sumatran Orangutan in the wild is only about 6,500.

Historically, Orangutan is found in forest area through Sumatra. However, these days the population of Orangutan is only limited in Aceh Province and North Sumatra Province. The habitat that is suitable for Orangutan these days only left about less than 900,000 hectares in Sumatra Island. These days is estimated that Orangutan will be the first species of big monkey that extinct in the wild. The main cause of this disaster is the decrease of habitat for Orangutan and the animal trading.

Orangutan is considered as the basic species for conservation. Orangutan plays major role in forest regeneration through fruits and seeds that they eat. The extinction of Orangutan can be considered as representation of the extinction of hundreds of species of plants and animals in rainforest ecosystem.

The world’s primary forest that is left is the basic of human wealth and also the key of healthy planet is the biodiversity. Saving Orangutan can also help mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, plants, and various other species of living creatures that live in Indonesian rainforest.

Interesting Facts

There are several interesting facts about Orangutan that you might want to know. Below are some of them.

  • Orangutan can use stick as tool for getting foods on higher branches. Orangutan also can use leaves to protect them from sunlight.
  • The biggest male Orangutan has arm span (the length from the tip of one hand to the tip of other hand when the hands are stretched out) that can reach 2.3 meter.
  • Male Orangutan can make calls from long distance that can be heard in 1 km radius. This call is usually used to mark or monitor his area, call female Orangutan, and to prevent other male Orangutans to disturb. Male Orangutans have large sized throat sac that can produce loud noise.

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