Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center


Pongo abelii and Pongo pygmaeus


Orangutans are remarkable great apes and the largest arboreal animal—they spend most of their lives in trees. The name orangutan comes from the Indonesian words “orang” (people) and hutan “forest.” In a mostly solitary lifestyle, they move through the trees using opposable thumbs and big toes and upper body strength and, looking for energy-rich fruits from more than 500 different kinds of plants!

Orangutans are easy to tell apart from other great apes, as well as monkeys. Like other apes, they lack a tail. They have reddish-orange hair and long arms—up to a 9-foot span for males! Male orangutans have two body forms: flanged males have large cheek pads and are dominant over unflanged males.

Orangutans are intelligent problem solvers and tool users. They use these skills in their natural habitats to forage for food and care for young. Orangutan females are dedicated mothers, caring for their young alone for up to a decade. Orangutans have the longest time between births—6 to 9 years—of any mammal!

3–4 feet tall; males weigh about 200 pounds and females weigh 85 pounds
Live in
Southeast Asia
Fruit, other vegetation, occasional insects, fungi or animals
Critically Endangered
IUCN Red List Conservation Status


There are three species of orangutans that live on different islands in Southeast Asia: Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) and Tapanuli orangutans (P. tapanuliensis). All three species are critically endangered due to habitat loss and hunting. Palm oil, found in many foods and products for the home, is produced from trees farmed in land once held forests. You can help protect the forests that orangutans call home by purchasing products made only with sustainable palm oil. Look for the PalmOil Scan mobile app and use it when you shop!

Outside view of Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center

Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center

The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center houses an elegant “functional forest” that allows orangutans to live like orangutans. Orangutans can also stimulate their minds with optional computer tasks that help Zoo scientists understand more about how orangutans learn and think about their world.


Orangutan Art

Orangutan Chat

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