ENDANGERED RAINFOREST SPECIES: ORANGUTANS
Endangered Apes: The Orangutan
Orangutans are the large—males can reach 5 feet (1.5m) in stature, and 250 pounds (114kg) in weight—red-haired ape of Asia. (Some isolated populations have dark gray or black hair.) The two species are found only on the large, tropical Asian islands of Sumatra, Indonesia’s main island, and Borneo, which is shared by Indonesia and Malaysia. Orangutans are excellent climbers, and prefer to remain high in the trees, making their way slowly through the rainforest in search of fruit. Unlike any of the other apes, they are also solitary animals that normally get together with others of their own kind only to mate.
Documented tool use among orangutans includes fashioning crude “hats” out of leaves for rain protection, as well as building a roof of leaves over their bed nests to keep the rain out.
Human encroachment on the island rainforests is pushing the orangutan ever closer to extinction in the wild. The Sumatran species (Pongo abelii) is listed as Critically Endangered, with only 7,000 of the animals remaining in a patchwork of forestland that is fast disappearing due to logging and the replacement of native trees with vast plantations of oil palms. The Borneo species (Pongo pygmaeus) is listed as Endangered, and has a remaining population of perhaps 60,000—less than 15 percent of what scientists estimate it was in the mid-20th century.