Sumatran Orangutan – Pongo abelii
The smaller of the two species, the Sumatran orangutan is very strong. A full grown male is approximately 200 pounds and 4 ½ feet tall. The females are quite a bit smaller at about 100 pounds and only about 3 feet tall.
While both species of orangutans are in grave danger of surviving, this one has the lowest numbers out there. They are known to be higher up in the trees than the other species of orangutans. This is due to the fact that they have more predators including species of large cats on the ground that will find them to be a tasty meal.
The Sumatran orangutan is very independent. They are alone except when feeding in the same areas. Even then they will ignore each other. Except for the care of the young and mating they don’t really interact with each other. They spend their time eating, playing, and sleeping. Many of their behaviors are very similar to those of humans which is why we are so entertained by them.
They tend to consume very large amounts of fruit. What they have access to depends on the season. They will migrate about a mile each day to a new place to consume food. They also feed on a high amount of insects. Leaves and bark are also eaten by them but only when they don’t find enough fruit to satisfy them.
They are well known for using tools including sticks and rocks in order to get to the sources of food that they want. This is a type of learned behavior as they do have teeth designed to get through the shells on food and the skins on fruits. They will even poke sticks into bee hives so that they can taste the delicious honey inside of it.
Reproduction can occur at any time for the Sumatran orangutan. However, they tend to do so more often during the rainy season and when food is plentiful. The males will initiate the mating and the females will often refuse unless it is a with a mature male. If the female can escape from the demands of the male she will do so. The mating usually takes place for several days before they go their own ways.
The females are excellent caregivers. They will teach their young a variety of skills so that they can take care of themselves when they part ways. This will be when the young is about 8 years of age. This is the longest period of care for any of the great apes. It is also a reason why it is so hard to get their numbers back up. As long as a female has her young to care for she won’t be mating with a male for all of those years.
The Sumatran orangutan is considered to be critically endangered at this time. It is estimated that only 7,300 of them exist in the wild. Even with aggressive types of conservation in place it is still very hard to know if these animals will be able to survive more than a few years.
The natural habitat of the Sumatran orangutans continues to get smaller and smaller. Logging is a huge industry in this part of the world and largely responsible for the depletion of the homes for many orangutans. In spite of laws in place to protect them, they continue to be exploited as a source of food, to sell as pets, and to prevent them from consuming the various forms of agriculture that grow in the forests.