Basic Facts About Orangutans and the

Threats They Face
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert to make a difference.
Conservation Status:  Critically Endangered

Orangutans are facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild (IUCN)


Pongo abelii


Pongo pygmaeus


Pongo tapanuliensis


Native to 2 Indonesian Islands–Borneo and Sumatra
Share 97 percent of human DNA
Only 104,700 remain in the wild
Over 50% decline in 16 years
Currently At least 3% killed each year
9,154,000 hectares (22,620,023 acres) of primary forest destroyed from 2002-2018
Illegal wildlife trade is a $10 billion annual business, second only to the drug market
Indonesian palm oil exports have exploded 1,500% to $20.7 billion in the past 20 years
85% of the world’s palm oil comes from Indonesia and Maylasia
80% of the fires in Indonesia are being set to clear land for palm oil plantations
2019 fires burned 1.6 million hectares of forest and land, 40% of it in Central Kalimantan and South Sumatra.
Poaching orangutans and other wildlife has escalated during the pandemic.



Species & Scientific Names

Bornean (Pongo pygmaeus)
Sumatran (Pongo abelii)
Tapanuli (Pongo tapanuliensis)

Physical Size

4 to 5 feet tall
73 to 220 pounds
Arm length is longer than height and males have an armspan of up to 7 feet

Life Span

30 to 40 years in the wild

Reproduction & Parental Care

Gestation is 8.5 months and female orangutans normally give birth to one offspring every 6 to 8 years. Baby orangutans are completely dependent on their mothers and cling to them the first 2 years. Mothers nurse their young up to 8 years, carry them until age 5, and teach their offspring until age 10.


In tropical rainforests, usually low-lying peat forests and other lush forests in Borneo and Sumatra. They build elaborate nests in tree branches each night, use leaves as tools and protection, and primarily move through the forest by way of trees.


Omnivore and nearly 90% of their diet is fruit. They eat over 400 different types of plants.

Social Oranization & Behavior

Semi-solitary and peaceful social system. Males are loners.

Communication & Vocalizations

Over 32 distinct vocalizations including kiss-squeak when excited or fearful , “raspberry” during nest building, “grumph” sounds when disturbed or annoyed, and long call when threatening others.


Incredible intelligence, patience, curiosity, and wisdom; tremendous strength; sophisticated use of tools, agility in moving through the forest canopy.


Clumsy and slow when traveling on foot (making them highly vulnerable); fearful and reluctant swimmers, and extremely low birth rates.

Natural Predators

Tigers, cloud leopards and pythons.

Human Threats

Habitat destruction and degradation, poaching, bush meat trade, human-orangutan conflict, and desease transmission.

Palm Oil


Palm oil is a highly versatile vegetable oil used in everything from processed foods, cosmetics, shampoo, cleaning products, candles, soaps and more. It’s also used as a bio-fuel and a protein source to fatten livestock.

Globally, it is the most heavily produced vegetable oil and it’s presence in consumer products is staggering—90% of the palm oil produced is used in consumer products, nearly 78% of foods contain it, 70% of cosmetics use palm oil derivatives as emulsifiers and surfactants, and nearly 50% of palm oil imported into the EU is used as biofuel. It’s ease in growing, high yield, and low production costs make palm oil popular crop for large and small-scale growers.

Demand for palm oil has exploded in the past 20 years and Indonesia supplies over half the world’s palm oil. Massive deforestation of primary forest—key to survival of Orangutans and all the plants and animals of this rich biodiverse habitat, is attributed to the advent of palm oil plantations, especially large-scale growers.  Additionally, with such fragmented forest, human-orangutan conflict is increasingly common around palm oil plantations as orangutans in search of food enter the plantations.  In this regard, they are often treated like “pests” and riddled with pellet guns, clubbed, or attacked with machetes. Palm oil cultivate on isn’t the only threat to Orangutans, but it is one of the key threats, and continues to squeeze Orangutans onto ever shrinking, degraded and fragmented parcels of forest.

The topic of palm oil is a highly controversial and polarizing one with no easy solutions. For purposes of saving Orangutans and all the other forest-dwelling inhabitants, Save Orangutans Now recommends eliminating or substantially limiting palm oil products and only choosing products that contain RSPO palm oil.  Learn more about managing your consumption of palm oil below.

Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping


Palm Oil Scanner


Reduce your overall consumption of palm oil — processed foods are unhealthy anyway!

Choose Well

Read labels and choose RSPO palm oil.

Tell Others

Spread the word so that others so others make informed choices.