Orangutans have exhibited lots of similarities to human growth and behaviors. They tend to shelter themselves from the rain or the sun with large leafy branches or large leaves. They also engage in tool use in the wild. As for development, the first year is very similar to human infant development.
Status in the Wild
Orangutans are sexually dimorphic (with two distinct gender forms): males are significantly taller than females are and weigh more than twice as much as females do. Both male and female orangutans range in color from bright orange to maroon or dark chocolate. The form of orangutans is well-adapted to an arboreal life-style. Their arms are very long and reach to their ankles when they stand upright. They have very long fingers and dexterous hands. Their feet are broad and look very similar to their hands, with long, grasping toes for climbing. They are the only primate with two distinct forms of mature males. Flanged males, with cheek pads, long hair, a large throat sac, and long calls, are intolerant of other mature males. Nonflanged males do not develop the secondary sex characteristics of flanged males: cheek pads, long hair, long calls, large size, and defense of territory. The nonflanged males are closer to females in body size. Both forms can impregnate females and contribute to the population's reproduction. The transition from unflanged to flanged is dependent upon complex social cues not yet fully understood. Like other great apes, orangutans have no tail, are large-brained, and are sapient (aware of themselves as individuals).
Orangutans' dependence on an arboreal lifestyle makes them very susceptible to habitat disruption. Clear-cutting forest for extensive agricultural development, notably palm oil plantations in Sumatra and Borneo, have led to a rapid decline in orangutan populations and an increase in numbers of orphaned orangutans. Orangutans are being rehabilitated at several stations in Malaysia and Indonesia, where confiscated young pets or orphaned orangutans are trained to return to the wild. Clear-cutting primary forest and mature secondary forest important as orangutan habitat serves to extirpate orangutan populations. The rapid habitat loss has led to many hundreds of juvenile orangutans being cared for in sanctuaries. Sanctuary caregivers are challenged with the task of rehabilitating, socializing, and providing basic care for so many youngsters who have had their normal rearing disrupted through habitat loss.
Brookfield Zoo has partnered with Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to promote orangutan friendly choices. You can help keep wild orangutans and their habitats healthy, by following the recommendations of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and choosing products containing palm oil certified as sustainable by the Round table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO ensures palm oil is harvested in a way that reduces CO2 emissions, does not harm wildlife or the environment and guarantees workers and their families have a living wage.
Download their Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide
Adopt an Orangutan
Orangutans are listed on Appendix I of CITES.
Listed as "critically endangered" on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources)
CZS Conservation - Species Survival Plan
The Chicago Zoological Society administers the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) Endangered Species Fund, which supports conservation-oriented research. The grant program attracts dozens of innovative research projects each quarter, which have included orangutan conservation.
CZS also assists in orangutan conservation by promoting awareness about palm oil issues and providing an Orangutan-Friendly Shopping Guide on its website.