The Asian great ape

Scientific name: Pongo abelii, Pongo pygmaeus and Pongo tapanuliensis

Diet: Omnivorous, with a preference for fruits (about 60% of food). They also eat leaves, buds, bark and occasionally eggs and small vertebrates.

Habitat: Tropical forests on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra (Indonesia and Malaysia, Southeast Asia).


The name orangutan means “man of the forest” in the Malay language. They are the great Asian primates and are classified in the genus Pongo. There are three identified species: the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), the Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) and the Tapanulli Orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis ).

In addition to the orange color of their fur being a trademark, some other characteristics make them unique animals. Unlike other great apes, orangutans live semi-solitary. That is, they spend most of their time alone, having occasional encounters with other individuals. Females accompany their young, on average, for the first 7 years of life.

Another curious fact is that orangutans are the animals with the heaviest arboreal habits that exist. They spend a good part of their lives literally jumping from branch to branch, and they make nests in different places to sleep. This is possible because they have very long arms and extremely flexible hip joints. In addition to the big toes being able to grip like a hand.

There are also significant differences in size and shape between male and female orangutans, which is known as sexual dimorphism. The most notable differences are body size and facial morphology.

Males are larger and can weigh over 90kg. On the other hand, females are between half and a third the size and weight. But the clearest difference is that males have cheek bumps or large flanges. These “full cheeks” are considered a secondary sexual characteristic, that is, they are attractive to females and help males to obtain mates.



According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, the three species of orangutans are classified as “Critically Endangered” (Critically Endangered). The main threats are the destruction of their habitat (urban development, global warming and economic activities, mainly palm oil extraction) and poaching for illegal activities.



The third species of orangutan, the Tapanuli, was officially described by scientists very recently, in 2017. The first observations in nature were made in the late 1930s. But it took decades of analysis to conclude that it was a distinct species, with unique characteristics in relation to their dental arch, size of the head and face and type of fur. They only live in the South Tapanuli region on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.


Species Residents
Meet the beautiful Katai! The female orangutan was born in 1985 in a German zoo and is a Sumatra/Borneo hybrid. Since 2010, she has been one of the residents of the Anami Institute's Great Apes Sanctuary, in Paraná.
Date of birth: 02/07/1985
Origin: Germany
Sanctuary: São José dos Pinhais, Paraná/Brazil