Tapanuli Orangutan
Pongo tapanuliensis
Population size
Bnelow 800
Life Span
30 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) is a species of orangutan found in the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. It is one of three known species of orangutan, alongside the Sumatran orangutan, found farther northwest on the island, and the Bornean orangutan. The Tapanuli orangutan was described as a distinct species in 2017 and currently, it is on the critically endangered species list.


Tapanuli orangutans resemble Sumatran orangutans more than Bornean orangutans in body build and fur color. However, they have frizzier hair, smaller heads, and flatter and wide faces. Dominant males have prominent mustaches and large flat cheek pads, known as flanges, covered in downy hair. Both male and female Tapanuli orangutans have beards and as with the other two orangutan species, males are larger than females.




Biogeographical realms

Tapanuli orangutans live in tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests that are located south of Lake Toba in Sumatra.

Tapanuli Orangutan habitat map


Climate zones

Tapanuli Orangutan habitat map
Tapanuli Orangutan
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Habits and Lifestyle

Tapanuli orangutans are exclusively arboreal and spend most of their time high up in the trees. This is probably due to the presence of Sumatran tigers in the area. They lead a solitary life and can be seen in pairs only when a mother is raising her young. Tapanuli orangutans are active during the day moving slowly in search of food through the trees. At night, they build a nest for sleeping up high in the canopy out of folded branches. Orangutans communicate with various sounds. Males will make long calls, both to attract females and to advertise themselves to other males. Both sexes will try to intimidate conspecifics with a series of low guttural noises known collectively as the "rolling call". When annoyed, an orangutan will suck in air through pursed lips, making a kissing sound known as the "kiss squeak". Mothers produce throat scrapes to keep in contact with their offspring. Infants make soft hoots when distressed. Orangutans are also known to produce smacks or blow raspberries when making a nest.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Tapanuli orangutans are omnivores. They have a unique diet that contains unusual items like caterpillars and conifer cones. They also consume fruits such as figs, mangoes, lychees, durian, and other plants.

Mating Habits

9 months
1 infant
7 years

After a gestation period that lasts for 9 months, female Tapanuli orangutans give birth to a single infant. The young clings to its mother for safety and remains at her side during the first few years. Infants usually stay with their mother until the age of 7 years, while being taught special skills for forest survival. Along with other orangutang species, Tapanuli orangutans are one of the most slowly-maturing animals in the world, with females bearing a maximum of three infants during their lifetime. Females become reproductively mature by the age of 12-15 years and males at an average of 15-20 years old.


Population threats

Tapanuli orangutans are classified as critically endangered because of hunting, conflict with humans, the illegal wildlife trade, rampant habitat destruction for small-scale agriculture, mining, and a proposed hydroelectric dam, the Batang Toru hydropower project, in the area with the highest density of orangutans, which could impact up to 10% of its already dwindling habitat and degrade important wildlife corridors. If the necessary conservation measures and practices are not implemented conservationists predict an 83% decline in three generations (75 years). This means that Tapanuli orangutangs could be extinct from the wild in the very near future.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Tapanuli orangutangs is fewer than 800 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The name "orangutan" (also written orang-utan, orang utan, orangutang, and ourang-outang) is derived from the Malay words orang, meaning "man", and hutan, meaning "forest". The locals originally used the name to refer to actual forest-dwelling people.
  • The Tapanuli orangutan is the second largest of all arboreal primates and it is the rarest great ape.
  • Orangutans build nests specialized for either day or night use. These are carefully constructed. The nest is built by pulling together branches under them and joining them at a point. After the foundation has been built, the orangutan bends smaller, leafy branches onto the foundation; this serves the purpose of and is termed the "mattress". After this, orangutans stand and braid the tips of branches into the mattress. Doing this increases the stability of the nest and is the final act of nest-building. Orangutans may also add features, such as "pillows", "blankets", "roofs" and "bunk-beds" to their nests.
  • Female orangutans do most of the caring for the young, while males play no role. A female often has an older offspring with her to help socialize the infant. The mother will carry the infant while traveling, and feed it and sleep with it in the same night nest. When the infant reaches the age of one-and-a-half years, its climbing skills improve and it will travel through the canopy holding hands with other orangutans, a behavior known as "buddy travel".
  • Tapanuli orangutans are very intelligent and are able to use a variety of sophisticated tools. Wild orangutans in Tuanan, Borneo, were reported to use tools in acoustic communication. They use leaves to amplify the kiss squeak sounds they produce. The apes may employ this method of amplification to deceive the listener into believing they are larger animals.


1. Tapanuli Orangutan on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapanuli_orangutan
2. Tapanuli Orangutan on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/120588639/120588662

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