MAN OF THE FOREST : The ORANG-UTANS

Let us get to know the orang-utan better

The orang-utan is a beautiful and special animal. It is the only great ape that lives outside of Africa. Its habitat is in Sumatra and Borneo, and it is the biggest species of mammal that live in the trees. And its smart& a master in survival. It knows the rainforest, with its thousands of plants and its dangers by heart. Let us learn more about this man of the forest.

Fruit loving ape

The orang-utan' s favorite food is fruits. It sounds easy if you have never been in the rainforest. But there are hundreds of thousands types of trees, how would you know which are fruit-bearing and edible? Some trees bear fruits only once a year. So how do you find the tree in the forest? An orang-utan can. From a young age, the orang-utan is trained by its mother to identify trees, track trails and climb trees. These skills are all necessary for it to survive in the jungle.

Unsociable

The orang-utan is not a sociable, affectionate animal. The males can be very grumpy, especially when they are in a group. Even a lion would envy the roar of a male orang-utan make to keep other males at a distance. Sometimes female orang-utans also keep their distance. They are much lighter, so they climb up higher, if necessary. A female orang-utan will choose the toughest male when she wants to mate. Young orang-utans sometimes play with other orang-utans when they meet in the fruiting trees. However they do hang on their mothers (literally).

Small family

Orang-utans reproduce very slowly. They will only give birth after 9 months. The mother then has its hands full with its baby. Other than protecting its young, it has to teach it a lot of things. Only after 6 years, is the young allowed to leave home. A female orang-utan seldom gives birth more than 4 times in its entire life.

Clean bed

Every night the orang-utan makes a new bed. It makes a nest out of branches and leaves high in the trees. This is very hygienic and safe (as long as they do not fall out, of course). For scientists researching on orang-utans, this is actually an easy way of tracking them. The fresher the nest, the closer you are to an orang-utan.

Protection of Orang-utans in Southeast Asia

Orang-utans are found only in the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The are protected by the law in Malaysia and Indonesia, making commercial trade illegal. However illegal trade continues. Many people still want to keep orang-utans as pets. While they are young, they may make entertaining pets, but adults are extremely strong and are obviously no longer suitable as pets.

Hunters often kill mothers to take their young to sell on the black market. Often, the baby is accidentally killed. Therefore, for every orang-utan in the illegal trade, at least a few more were killed. This wasteful and senseless trade is one of the major reasons the orang-utans has become endangered in the wild.

Authorities in both Malaysia and Indonesia are trying to stop the illegal trade, but as long as there is a demand by people who are willing to pay large sums of money to have a baby orang-utans as a pet, the trade will continue. Authorities often do not have enough manpower or the financial resources to fight the illegal trade.

Another problem is that some people who would like to keep orang-utans as pets do not realise that it is against the law, and that by keeping an orang-utan as a pet, they are contributing to the decline in its population in the wild. More efforts to educate people about the orang-utans are needed.