Orangutans—Found in Indonesia
Indonesia is a remarkable and incredibly diverse country. Composed of 17,508 islands (6000 inhabited) and stretching east to west as far as California to New York, there are 15 main ethnicities with over 700 different languages and dialects spoken. The diversity is also extended to wildlife as it ranks second globally for its biodiversity. Fifteen percent of the world’s bird species are found in Indonesia. 500 kinds of birds and 200 species of mammals are found only in this vast archipelago. One notable animal in the latter category is the orangutan.
The term Orangutan translates from the Malay language as “person of the forest” (orang – man, utan – forest) and is only found on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Highly intelligent, these great apes are known for making tools to help them eat and communicate, as well as using leaves for gloves, napkins and umbrellas. Surviving mostly on a diet of fruit, they also eat various bugs and sometimes bird eggs. They can grow up to 1.4m (4.5ft) in height, almost 90kg (200lb) and may live to be over 50 years old in the wild.
Unfortunately, the Sumatran orangutan is critically endangered due mostly to habitat destruction. It is estimated that only six to seven thousand remain in the wild. Since they spend the majority of their lives in the trees, deforestation from the logging industry and wide spread land clearing for palm oil plantations have proven catastrophic to their population. There are, however, several organizations fighting for their survival.
The small village of Bukit Lawang, located in northern Sumatra about 4.5 hours north of the airport in Medan, is a small village that has created the largest sanctuary of the Sumatran orangutan. Located on the edge of a UNESCO World Heritage site, Gunung Leuser National Park, the sanctuary is one of two remaining habitats for Sumatran orangutans and has a population of about 5000 wild and semi-wild (rescued and rehabilitated) orangutans.
The Gunung Leuser National Park near Bukit Lawang is a great place to see the orang utans when the staff do daily feedings. The mostly mountainous national park also is home to many different interesting birds as well as leopards, tigers, elephants, and rhinos.
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