International Orangutan Day is celebrated every year on Aug. 19 to bring awareness about preserving the critically endangered great apes.

Largescale deforestation, mining and degradation of tropical rainforest have endangered orangutans. Along with human activity, climate shifts have also drastically reduced the orangutan population in the past decade to around 50%.

Here are some interesting facts about the great apes that you might like to know (Courtesy: WWF, Natgeokids)

  1. Orangutan is considered one of the closest relatives of humankind as they share almost 97% of the same DNA. The Malay word "orang hutan" means "human of the forest."
  2. There are three species of orangutans: Bornean, the Sumatran and the Tapanuli. All three are critically endangered as estimates suggest only 100,000 Bornean, less than 14,000 Sumatran and fewer than 800 Tapanuli orangutans are left now.
  3. Orangutans are the heaviest animals that dwell on trees. They measure 1.2 to 1.5 meters tall and weigh up to 220 pounds.
  4. They have long arms that stretch to their ankles when standing. Their arms are one-and-a-half times longer than their legs (about 2.2m).
  5. Orangutans use both hands and feet while gathering food and traveling through the trees. Their feet are designed almost the same as their hands for gripping and climbing.
  6. Infant orangutans stay with their mothers, ride on their bodies and learn things from them until they are ready to survive on their own.
  7. Orangutans give birth only once every 7-9 years, which is the longest period of any land mammal.
  8. They have a long lifespan and can live over 30 years in the wild and some may even live up to 50 to 60 years in captivity.
  9. Orangutans make a new nest or sleeping platform every night by using small and big branches of trees.
  10. The apes are capable of using tools like sticks and even knows to make "glove" out of leaves for handling prickly fruits or thorny branches.
  11. Fruits like mangoes, lychees and figs make up around 60% of their diet. They even eat soil and tree bark when fruits are scarce.
  12. According to estimates, over 100,000 Bornean orangutans were lost between 1999 and 2015.
Orangutan pixabay