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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

21 Tapanuli Orangutan Facts You’ll Never Forget

Tapanuli orangutan facts about the species native to northern Sumatra's Batang Toru forest.

The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) can be found exclusively near Lake Toho in south Tapanuli on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. There are two more orangutan species found further northwest on the island called the Sumatran orangutan and Bornean orangutan. The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is a Critically Endangered species on the IUCN Red list with just 800 individuals. Tapanuli is a hilly region in north Sumatra island. The Tapanuli orangutan look more like Sumatran orangutans than their Bornean cousins. The males have a mustache and large cheek pads, which are covered in brown hair. The Tapanuli orangutans have a small head, frizzy hair, wider and flatter faces. Females also have facial hair like male beards. Tapanuli orangutan from the family Hominidae has larger upper canines, shallower face depth, and other such features that separate them from the other two orangutans.

The Tapanuli orangutans are considered the rarest of great apes. There are about 800 individuals only in a 1000 square kilometer area. The word orangutan means forest man in Malay. They come in colors like gray, brown, black, red, and orange. These wild animals were named as a distinct species from their Bornean cousins in 2017. The Tapanuli orangutans are the only great species of orangutan/apes found outside of Africa. Here are some interesting facts about the critically endangered species of orangutan. Afterward, do check our other articles on siamangs and Sumatran orangutans.

Tapanuli Orangutan Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Tapanuli orangutan?

The Tapanuli orangutan is a type of great ape and the second-largest ape found on the Sumatran islands. Tapanuli orangutans are a Critically Endangered species of ape that share 96% of human DNA. This species is exclusively found in south Tapanuli on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.

What class of animal does a Tapanuli orangutan belong to?

The Tapanuli orangutan belongs to the mammal class of animals as they give birth to offspring like other animals. Like all apes, Tapanuli orangutans are closely related to humans. The orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo were recognized as distinct species in 2001.

How many Tapanuli orangutan are there in the world?

There are only 800 Tapanuli orangutans found in the world. These wild animals have a slow reproductive rate which is one of the reasons for the low population.

Where does a Tapanuli orangutan live?

The Tapanuli orangutan habitat can be found exclusively near Lake Toho in south Tapanuli on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia and Sumatra's Batang Toru Forest. This is in the northwestern part of the Sumatran islands. The Sumatran orangutan species is found between 1000-43000 ft (304-1310 m) above sea level. These wild animals reside in a 1000 sq m region in the Batang Toru Forest.

What is a Tapanuli orangutan's habitat?

Tapanuli orangutans are found in the dense tropical and subtropical broadleaf forest of the south Tapanuli region on the Sumatra island in Indonesia. The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) species is arboreal as they spend most of their time living on a tree. These orangutans are also thought to be arboreal as the scientists have rarely seen them on the ground. These wild animals build a nest for sleeping in the high trees under a canopy of folded branches in their habitat in Sumatra.

Who do Tapanuli orangutan live with?

Tapanuli orangutans are solitary creatures, especially males. Only a female orangutan can be found with her young one while she is raising him. Otherwise, Tapanuli orangutan species are lone creatures.

How long does a Tapanuli orangutan live?

The Tapanuli orangutan lives for 30-40 years. The orangutan lifespan in the wild is less as compared to that in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

The Tapanuli orangutan comes together only for mating. Other than that these great apes live a lonely life. Males have a long call for mating, which is loud and booming and can be heard from a distance of 6.6 mi (1 km) through the trees. These calls attract females. There is not much known about their mating rituals apart from this. The female will give birth to a single infant after a gestation period of nine months. The baby orangutans will live with their mothers for seven years and are clingy babies. During this period the mother orangutan will teach the baby how to survive in the forests and pass vital information like which plant to eat, how to build a nest and the utilization of rudimentary tools in daily life. All three apes of Sumatra island are considered slow-maturing animals in the world. These orangutans cannot breed till the age of 12-15 years. The female orangutan will have a maximum of three offspring in her lifetime, which is one of the reasons why the population of these apes has always been low.

What is their conservation status?

The Tapanuli orangutan is Critically Endangered in terms of its conservation status and is facing the threat of extinction due to humans. The main reason for the threat of extinction is habitat fragmentation, illegal hunting, conflict with humans and illegal wildlife trade. The habitat loss is due to the loss of forest region to small-scale farming, mining, and a hydroelectricity dam, the Batang Toru hydropower project in the area around Lake Toho which is the only area where these orangutans are found. If necessary steps are not taken, 85% of the population will undergo extinction in three generations. This means that there is a threat of them going extinct in the near future. There are fewer than 800 individuals found in the world right now and the population is decreasing.

Tapanuli Orangutan Fun Facts

What do Tapanuli orangutan look like?

Males have a mustache and large cheek pads, which are covered in brown hair. These orangutans have a small head, frizzy hair, wider and flatter faces. Females also have facial hair like male beards. The Tapanuli orangutan has larger upper canines, shallower face depth, and other such gestures that separate them from the other two orangutans. They come in colors like gray, brown, black, red, and orange.

Tapanuli orangutans are the new species of great apes discovered in 2017.

How cute are they?

They are cute and different-looking apes. They share 96% of human DNA and can be called our ancestors.

How do they communicate?

Males have a long call for mating, which is loud and booming and can be heard from a distance of 0.6 mi (1 km) through the trees. These wild animals make low guttural noise called rolling calls when they want to intermediate. When annoyed, they purse their lips and suck air as making kissing sounds which actually sound like kissing squeaks. The mothers will communicate with the babies with throat scrapes. They will make sounds like smacks or blowing a raspberry when building their nests.

How big is a Tapanuli orangutan?

The Tapanuli orangutan is a type of great ape and the second-largest ape found on the Sumatran islands. They are about 4-5 ft  (48-60 in) tall with long arms.

How fast can a Tapanuli orangutan run?

The Tapanuli orangutan is an arboreal ape, which means it spends most of its time on tree branches. It is observed that it rarely comes down in order to save themselves from Sumatran tigers. They also cannot jump due to their heavy bodies and use their long arms to travel from one branch to another.

How much does a Tapanuli orangutan weigh?

The Tapanuli orangutan weighs between 66-180 lb (29-81 kg). They are the second-largest ape and the only great ape to be found outside of Africa.  

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female Tapanuli orangutan does not have any specific names. They are known as male Tapanuli orangutans and female Tapanuli orangutans respectively.

What would you call a baby Tapanuli orangutan?

A baby Tapanuli orangutan is called a baby or infant. The male orangutans are larger than females.

What do they eat?

The Tapanuli orangutan eats some unique items like caterpillars and conifer cones. They eat fruits like mangoes, lychees, figs, durian, and other plants. Orangutans spend most of their time searching for food. Because of its size, it requires a large amount of nutrition too. They can share areas of abundant food with others.

Are they dangerous?

No, they are not dangerous or harmful. They are an endangered species of apes and efforts are being made to protect them as only 800 individuals remain in the world. They are sensitive to their habitat, which is defragmenting rapidly due to agriculture, mining, and construction activities.

Would they make a good pet?

They would be lazy pets as they prefer to stay on treetops in their nests and only move to find fruits and caterpillars. They are Critically Endangered, therefore they cannot be kept as pets, and their habitat needs to be revived for them to continue surviving.

Did you know...

Males play no role in taking care of their young ones. The female will have an older baby, which helps her socialize with the younger one. They will feed the baby and sleep in the same nest. When the baby orangutan is 1.5 years old, it can travel through the canopy holding hands with other orangutans. This is called buddy travel.

Orangutans have a mattress, pillow blankets, roof, and bunk beds in their nests. These wild animals can build fully functional nests in forests, which are as good as a small tree house with leaves, branches, and twigs.

Males can stretch their arms for 2 m from fingertip to fingertip.

Orangutans are really dexterous animals and make use of their hands and feet while gathering food and traveling through the forests.

Tapanuli orangutans diverged from Sumatran orangutans and Bornean orangutans about 3.4 million years ago. Their entire population is exclusively found in northern Sumatra's Batang Toru Forest.

Which is bigger, a gorilla or an orangutan?

Gorillas are bigger than orangutans. Orangutans are two-thirds the size of gorillas. Gorillas are found on land and orangutans are arboreal. Gorillas are heavier too. Orangutans do not have strong legs but long arms which they use to go from branch to branch. Gorillas are known for their strength and use all four of their limbs to fight.

What are 5 interesting facts about orangutans?

Orangutans are the most intelligent non-human primates. They can make tools to forage for food or drink.

They build a nest for themselves and are diurnal. They have been kept in captivity since the 19th century.

They can eat with their feet too and are the heaviest tree-dwelling animals.

Females may mate with males who have phalanges which are fatty tissue on both sides of their faces.

Orangutans will build a new nest every night. They can build one in 10 minutes, with small branches for a mattress and rooftop. Their favorite fruit is durian which smells rotten.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our Bornean orangutan facts and fur seal facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our orangutan coloring pages.

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