Orangutans in the Borneo wild

Bornean Orangutans and baby orangutans

I’m still buzzing from being just steps away from a couple of orangutans in the Sarawak region of Malaysia, western Borneo (semi-wild). Humans are close relatives, sharing more than 95% of DNA with humans, and you could tell. They’re rare and were fascinating to watch.

Orangutans are about four times stronger than humans, so this is the closest I’d want to be

I actually saw orang-utans twice earlier in my trip, but they were so far away that it just looked like shadowy ape-like figure in the tree with a slightly reddish/brown color. It was exciting at the time, but turned out to be just an appetizer for this experience.

Orangutan infants often cling to their mothers for the first 2-4 years

I went to Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a temporary home for various endangered wildlife of Sarawak, especially orang-utans that were rescued from captivity. There’s no bars or cages – the orangutans come and go as they please, and they help train them with basic skills that they would have learned with the goal of re-initroducing them into the wild.  Visitors can have a chance to see them at twice daily feeding times. Since I already saw that earlier in my trip, I’ll skip to the good part.

I was on my way out of the park when we spotted an orangutan right near us, and continuing to approach.  Wow!

I get that hungry too!

Quick facts on Orangutans:

  • You might think their name comes from the color of their fur (appears orange at times), but that’s not correct. The word orangutan is derived from two malay words:  ‘orang’ = ‘man’ (people), and ‘hutan’ meaning ‘forest’
  • Our closest relatives: The orangutan is a member of the Great Apes, which also includes humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas (chimps are not monkeys).
  • The major difference between Great Apes and monkeys: apes do not have tails.
  • There’s 2 species of Orangutans: Sumatran (found in northern Sumatra, island of Indonesia) and Bornean, aka Pongo Pigmaeus
  • Population – there are estimated to be just 30-50,000 orangutans in the wild
  • Orangutans are big, the largest tree dwelling mammals in the world. The females are 75-110 lbs, 3’9-4’2. The males are typically twice that weight, at 110-220 lbs, 4’6-4’7 feet.
  • They spend nearly their entire day in the trees, 20-100 feet off the ground.
Orangutans are the largest tree dwelling mammal in the world
Orangutans are the largest tree dwelling mammal in the world
Orangutan arms are twice as long as their legs. Their outstretched arms can reach up to 7.5 feet!
Orangutan arms are twice as long as their legs. Their outstretched arms can reach up to 7.5 feet!

Eat, sleep, play: Their typical day revolves around eating, resting, and moving between eating and resting sites. Outstanding!  Day travel ranges from a few hundred feet, to as much as nearly two miles (half mile on average). They make a new nest every night.

Solitary Creatures: males primarily live alone and only come together with females for mating. Adult females live with their offspring when their young.

What have you been eating?? Their diet is 60% fruit. In addition they also eat some plants, flowers, bark, ants, caterpillars, fungi, spiders, termites, and more.

If you’ve been reading this blog, by now you’ve realized that I’m fascinated by wildlife. Outside of deers and raccoons in the woods behind my yard growing up, the only wild life I experienced was the Bronx Zoo (still one of the most impressive zoos I’ve been to!).  This was memorable!

I thought that might be the only time I was that close to anything so human-like in the wild, but little did I know that the very next day I discovered Probiscus Monkeys in the Borneo wild!

Other amazing baby wildlife from my trip included seeing baby elephants and baby monkeys in Borneo were adorable!  I also saw other types of animals up close – tarsiersmacaquesproboscis monkeyssharkspythons, camels, and more!

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