These ‘people of the forest’, so remarkably like us, meet us at their level in a carefully designed enclosure that makes for a satisfying encounter on both sides of the glass.
While this peaceable family group lives in safety, Sumatran Orang-utans in the wild are under great threat. They are classed as critically endangered, with numbers in the wild rapidly falling. Numbers have dropped by close to 95% in the last 100 years and there may now be fewer than 3500 in the wild. Their rainforest habitat is being rapidly destroyed to make way for logging and agriculture, particularly palm oil plantations. They are also hunted for the pet trade and for meat.
Breeding programs in captivity, such as at Melbourne Zoo, are helping to ensure that the species doesn’t disappear. Our hope is that worldwide efforts to rein in destruction of orang-utan rainforest habitats will succeed. You can be a part of this growing international effort by supporting the ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’ campaign.
Orang-utans are the largest tree-living mammals in the world. There are two species: the Bornean Orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus) and the Sumatran Orang-utan (Pongo abelli). The Sumatran Orang-utan has a narrower face and longer beard than the Bornean, which is darker in colour.
Sumatran Orang-utans are about 1.25–1.5 metres tall. Adult males weigh up to 90kg, and females up to 50kg.
Orang-utans are largely solitary, unlike the other great apes, and spend much of their time foraging for fruit high up in the canopy of the rainforest. They rarely come to the ground and will build nests out of leaves and branches each night in the treetops.
- This large, gentle ape shares 97% of our DNA, making it one of our closest relatives
- Like the other great apes, orang-utans are highly intelligent, as seen in their advanced tool use and problem solving abilities
- An orang-utan’s arms stretch out longer than its body – over 2 metres from fingertip to fingertip. On the ground, they walk on all fours, using their palms or fists
- Apart from humans, the orang-utan has the longest childhood dependence on a mother of any animal in the world (9 years)