Happy Orangutan Day!

Happy Orangutan Day! image

Prefer to read it in Indonesian? Click here 

Hey readers, it is with great excitement to tell you that we’re celebrating one of the most intelligent primates in the world, native from Indonesia, the orangutans. Before we get into this topic deeper, first you need to understand that orangutans aren't just a type of ape- that definition doesn’t do them justice! 

Illustration by Asian Orlando

Differences Between the Great Apes and Monkey

Great apes and monkeys are classified as primates and are often considered the same. In fact, a lot of people do not know the difference between great apes and monkeys. Even though they both are hairy and have a human-like body posture, these animals have distinct differences. You can find many differences between these two primates, ranging from classification, physical characteristics, to where they live.

The differences between them :

  • Great apes: They do not have tails and their arms are usually slightly longer than their legs. They can do bipedal movements like humans though they also move using quadrupedal movements. They are larger in size compared to monkeys. Orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas are all classified as great apes.

  • Monkey: They have tails that help them with balance when climbing trees or walking on tree trunks. Their arms and legs have approximately similar length and their size is smaller compared to great apes. Though they can move using bipedal movements, they are spotted to move with quadrupedal motion more often.

Image source: treknature.com;pixabay.com


Orangutan Population

Based on data obtained from WWF, the total population of orangutans in the world currently is 14,600 and 90% is in the territory of the Republic of Indonesia. Orangutans can be found in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, namely on the islands of Borneo, in Kalimantan part of Indonesia, Malaysia, and in Sumatra Island Their range is naturally limited by altitude, as orangutans are typically found beneath 500 m above sea level (asl). The highest they have ever been recorded is 1,500 m asl, but this is the exception to the ‘rule’. Orangutans can be found in a large variety of habitat types from brackish mangrove forests to limestone karst forests, but most commonly, orangutans inhabit what is called tropical lowland forests. Within this term, however, it includes a large variety of different forest types, with the two most important for orangutans being dry dipterocarp forests and swamp forests.

The orangutan population is currently in critical condition. Indonesia itself has three species of orangutans, namely the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis), where all three are Critically Endangered (CR) based on the IUCN red list. 

Left: Male Bornean orangutan (P. pygmaeus); Center: Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii); Right: Tapanuliensis orangutan (P. tapanuliensis)


Orangutan Statistics

A series of observations on orangutans are being carried out through the Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) program. This activity was last held in Bogor, West Java in 2016. After updating, PHVA Orangutan 2016 became the main guidelines in implementing the Strategy and Action Plan for Orangutan Conservation (SRAK) 2019-2029, as a replacement for SRAK 2007-2017.


According to the 2004 PHVA Orangutan, the population and distribution of the Sumatran Orangutan are estimated at 6,667 individuals, with a habitat area of ​​703,100 hectares. Currently, it is estimated that the number of Sumatran orangutans are around 14,470 individuals in a habitat of 2,155,692 hectares. However, this figure does not indicate the increase in the orangutan population. On the other hand, there was a decrease of orangutans from 0.95 individuals/km2 to 0.67% individuals/km2. In a sense, orangutans will be difficult to find within 1 sq km of their habitat.


Based on the 2016 PHVA Orangutan Final Report, it is estimated that there are 71,820 orangutans left in Sumatra and Kalimantan, with a habitat area of ​​around 17,460,600 hectares. In detail, this following is an estimate of the decreasing number of orangutans in Kalimantan in 1997-2014


Estimated Number of Individuals per Time Period

Overall %


























West Kalimantan 








Central Kalimantan








East Kalimantan 








North Kalimantan

















Why Are Orangutans Critically Endangered?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, orangutans are classified as critically endangered. Where this is caused by several factors, including:


  1. Loss of orangutan habitat

The exploitation of conversion forests into residential land, urban infrastructure, aquaculture, and mining can threaten the existence of orangutans. This is due to the increasingly narrow, even losing the orangutan habitats.


  1. Forest fires

In 1997-1998 there was a fire in the peatland forest of South Kalimantan which resulted in the occurrence of 8,000 Bornean Orangutans. This shows that forest fires are also a factor in the extinction of orangutans.


  1. Climate change

Climate change and even a bad weather can cause a decrease in quality and damage to some orangutan habitats. This causes increased risk of orangutan death due to ecosystem damage.


  1. Lack of awareness about orangutans

Research shows that 27% of people in Kalimantan do not know orangutans are protected by law. Therefore, the orangutans illegally hunt and make orangutans as meat food.


  1. Illegal hunting

Illegal hunting is the main cause of the decreasing number of orangutans. After being hunted, orangutans are taken as meat for consumption or as pets. However, both of them are certainly a threat to the existence of orangutans. Research shows that protecting orangutan habitats does not guarantee the survival of orangutans if illegal hunting is still ongoing.

Source: https://www.fiverr.com/jonnyplant


The Role of the Orangutans in the Forest

  1. Orangutans Encourage the Establishment of Protected Areas

Orangutans provide support for their ecosystems by being umbrella species. Umbrella species are important because their wide geographic range helps protect other organisms within their ecosystem. By creating protected areas where these umbrella species roam, the entire ecological community is benefiting.

Umbrella species: Species that have either large habitat needs or other requirements whose conservation results in many other species being conserved at the ecosystem or landscape level.


  1. Orangutans Shape Their Ecosystems

Orangutans can be defined as keystone species. A keystone species is an animal whose actions govern the well-being of a large majority of species in its given ecosystem. Orangutan is a frugivore, fruit-eater of hundreds of fruit tree species in the rainforest, making them an effective forest gardener, spreading seeds while they travel from one tree to another, especially the larger seeds that don’t get spread by smaller animals. Orangutans help to shape their forests and provide habitat and food for other fruit eating species. Without them, the forest could not support the entire community.

Keystone species is an animal whose actions govern the well-being of a large majority of species in its given ecosystem. 

Source: The Scientist Magazine


What Can We Do to Help Orangutans?


  1. Be a wise consumer

Our lifestyle contributes to the health and sustainability of our habitat. By becoming more aware of how much carbon footprint we create on a daily basis, we can help reduce carbon emission and contribute to habitat conservation. We can start by choosing products that are sustainable and develop positive habits; become more mindful of our waste, save water and energy, plant trees, opt for reusable food packaging, reduce the use of plastic, support local businesses, and inspire others to practice eco-friendly lifestyles. Educate yourselves on how to adjust your lifestyle better for the sake of the environment.

There are many organisations that provide information on which products or brands that have sustainable business. You can check out www.rspo.org, www.fsc.org, and many other certification organisations to check if you are buying the right products for you. It is critical that you do your own due diligence to become a responsible consumer.
Some products may contain palm oil, which damages Indonesia's forests. The forest plays an important role as a habitat for orangutans. The lower demand for products with palm oil, the smaller the economic opportunity to convert forests into oil palm land. However, if we have to use products with palm oil, make sure the product is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).


  1. Use products that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified

Wood from Indonesian forests is generally processed into various pieces of furniture and paper. So, use products that are FSC certified, because these products use wood that is harvested sustainably.


  1. Be an activist

Disseminating understanding about the important role of orangutans in the ecosystem and the orangutan threatened with extinction, can be done as an effort to preserve orangutans. The higher the public's concern for the orangutan, the higher the success of orangutan conservation efforts.


  1. Do not touch the wildlife!
When you visit orangutan habitat or conservation, avoid holding baby orangutans. Because the transmission of flu from humans is very dangerous for orangutans.


  1. Orangutans are not pets or a merchandise you can gift around

Do not buy orangutans or accept them as gifts. This is illegal to do and you will be fined or jailed.


  1. Reporting violations against orangutans to the authorities

If you find an organization or individual that is doing something dangerous to orangutans, such as torturing or hunting. Immediately report it to the authorities, so it can be followed up and prosecuted according to the applicable law.


  1. Become a volunteer

Taking part as an orangutan conservation volunteer is one of the real steps and can directly conserve orangutans. There are many organisations that will allow you to directly participate in such action, such as BOSF.


  1. Donate

Donating to conservations can certainly help preserve orangutans. This is because the facilities and programs for orangutan conservation can be improved through additional funding.

About BOSF

Hey earthlings, if you want to go further than our suggestions above, the BOS offered numerous possibilities for you to get involved!


The Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation is an Indonesian non-profit organisation that is dedicated to realising the conservation of Bornean orangutans and their habitat, by working together with local people, the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia, and partner organisations around the world.  First established in 1991, the BOS Foundation started in response to the huge number of orangutans that were reported to have been driven out from their habitat. In the decades since, BOS Foundation has built two orangutan rehabilitation centres, one in Central Kalimantan located in Nyaru Menteng and one in East Kalimantan located in the reforested Samboja Lestari. Over the last three decades, we have been able to rescue over 2,000 orangutans and, in the present day, are taking care of more than 400 orangutans with the support of over 400 highly dedicated employees, varying in expertise in the areas of biodiversity conservation, primatology, ecology, forest rehabilitation, agroforestry, community empowerment, education, and orangutan veterinary care.   

The BOS Foundation is committed to protecting the future of the orangutan and its forest home through our programs in orangutan reintroduction, forest rehabilitation and conservation, community development, and lifelong sanctuary care for unreleasable animals. With working areas in both Central and East Kalimantan, two rehabilitation centres, three orangutan reintroduction sites, two large-scale reforestation projects, a wild orangutan protection and research program, widespread community development initiatives, and partner organisations operating across four continents, the BOS Foundation believes that complex problems require large-scale, innovative, and inclusive solutions. You can take an active role in this story by supporting the rehabilitation journey of our orangutans or one of the other BOS Foundation conservation activities! Together, we can ensure a brighter future for the Critically Endangered orangutan.

Three young orangutans with its carers at an orangutan school owned by BOSFT located at Kutai, East Kalimantan. Source: Antara/Regina Safri


What Can We Do to Support Orangutans Through the BOS Foundation? 

Short-term Care

  • Donate

1. Donation Pack

    • Rp 100.000 can provide fruit for 7 orangutans or plant a tree
    • Rp 250.000 can buy equipment for the orangutans enrichment program
    • Rp 500.000 can provide a general health check-up for routine health screening of orangutans
    • Rp 1.000.000 can provide an orangutans food for 30 days
2. Donate as you wish

These two donation options can be done only once or regularly. You can go to the website and easily follow the instructions on the “Donate” button. The money goes for acquiring protected forests for the release of rehabilitated orangutans and aiding the team rescuing orangutans from conflict and the illegal pet trade, to supporting the dedicated surrogate mothers who nurture orangutan orphans at Forest School and helping the enrichment team and veterinary staff.

100% of donation supports the costs for the teams and activities based from the working areas including, but not limited to the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, the Mawas Conservation Program, and  the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
  • Support the product

Orangutan Shop is a gift shop for orangutan and wildlife lovers. And what's great about that is that every purchase supports the efforts, and this means that when we shop we are also working for orangutan conservation. The merchandising team has high standards in regards to quality and design.


Long-term Care

  • Adoption Programme

BOS Foundation has rehabilitation centres for the orangutans being cared for. We can contribute directly to helping the growth of orangutans by virtually adopting them. We will receive regular updates of the species that we choose about the rehabilitation progress and support their journey towards true freedom. Currently, there are 8 individuals that we can adopt:







Kopral & Shelton




By adopting one of the orangutans in BOS Foundation rehabilitation centres, we are supporting their around-the-clock care by the dedicated BOS Foundation team and other supporting activities. Orphaned orangutans learn their first, basic skills from surrogate human mothers, who play a vital role in preparing them for a life in the wild. We will also get the Adoption Welcome Pack that includes a personalised adoption certificate, a full background story, and an exclusive portrait photo.



Direktorat Jenderal Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam dan Ekosistem

Forum Orangutan Indonesia (FORINA)

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species

The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

Orangutan Foundation International (OFI)

Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA)

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF)

Orangutan Alliance


This article is written by E.J. Syamsy, Gentala Mahardika, Dewi Permatasari, and Cindy T.

We would also give tremendous thanks to BOSF team for their contribution and help.

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