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Tapanuli Orangutan

November 17, 2022

The Tapanuli orangutan is one of only three species of orangutans in the world. Found only in the tropical moist broadleaf forests in the Tapanuli districts of northern Sumatra, there are only 800 or so Tapanuli orangutans in existence. The species is critically endangered.

Although they were discovered in 1939, Tapanuli orangutans were only recognized as a distinct species in 2017. Prior to that, they were thought to be Sumatran orang-utans.

Interesting Facts about the Tapanuli orangutan

  • Tapanuli orangutans live entirely up in the trees, never coming down to the ground. Although scientists observed them for over 3.000 hours, not one was ever seen coming out of the trees.
  • It is likely that they hide in trees because of all the Sumatran tigers on the ground.
  • Tapanuli orangutans have an odd diet. It includes mangoes, figs, caterpillars, and pine cones. Yes, pine cones.
  • These orang-utans are quite the architects. They build complex nests in the trees, some made for daytime and night use, by braiding branches together. They even make roofs and bunk beds.
  • They also use a wide variety of tools. This includes trumpets made from leaves that they use to amplify the noises they make when they're annoyed. That way, the forest knows that they're really annoyed.
  • It is thought that the Tapanuli orangutans were originally Sumatran orang-utans that became completely isolated from the rest of their kind after the Toba supervolcano erupted 74,000 years ago.
  • Orang-utan, which is sometimes spelled orangutan, orangutang, and ourang-outang, means "forest man."


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