The Bornean Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, is a species of orangutan native to the island of Borneo. Together with the slightly smaller Sumatran Orangutan, it belongs to the only genus of great apes native to Asia.
The Bornean Orangutan has a life span of about 35 to 40 years in the wild; in captivity it can live to be 60. A survey of wild orangutans found that males weigh on average 75 kg (165 lb), ranging from 50–100 kg (110-200 lb), and 1.2-1.4 m (4-4.7 ft) long; females averaging 38.5 kg (82 lb), ranging from 30–50 kg (66-110 lb), and 1-1.2 m (3.3–4 ft) long.
There is evidence that there was gene flow between the geographically isolated Bornean Orangutan populations until recently. The Bornean and Sumatran Orangutan species diverged 1.5 – 1.7 million years ago. This occurred well before the two islands (Borneo and Sumatra) separated. The two species of orangutan are more distantly related than the Common Chimpanzee and the Bonobo. Despite this difference, the two orangutan species were only considered subspecies until as recently as 1996, following sequencing of mtDNA.
The Bornean Orangutan has three subspecies:
- Northwest Bornean Orangutan P. p. pygmaeus - Sarawak (Malaysia) & northern West Kalimantan (Indonesia)
- Central Bornean Orangutan P. p. wurmbii - Southern West Kalimantan & Central Kalimantan (Indonesia)
- Northeast Bornean Orangutan P. p. morio - East Kalimantan (Indonesia) & Sabah (Malaysia)
The population currently listed as P. p. wurmbii may be closer to the Sumatran Orangutan (P. abelii) than the Bornean Orangutan. If confirmed, abelii would be a subspecies of P. wurmbii (Tiedeman, 1808). Regardless, the type locality of pygmaeus has not been established beyond doubts, and may be from the population currently listed as wurmbii (in which case wurmbii would be a junior synonym of pygmaeus, while one of the names currently considered a junior synonym of pygmaeus would take precedence for the taxon in Sarawak and northern West Kalimantan). To further confuse, the name morio, as well as various junior synonyms that have been suggested, have been considered likely to all be junior synonyms of the population listed as pygmaeus in the above, thus leaving the taxon found in East Kalimantan and Sabah unnamed.
The Bornean Orangutan lives in tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests in the Bornean lowlands as well as mountainous areas 1500 m in elevation. It lives at different heights in the trees and moves large distances to find trees bearing fruit. Its diet consists of fruit as well as shoots, bark, and bird eggs. It also eats insects but to a lesser extent than the Sumatran Orangutan. Bornean Orangutans have been seen using spears to catch fish.
The Bornean Orangutan travels on the ground more than its Sumatran counterpart. It is theorized this may be in part because there is no need to avoid the large predators which only exist in Sumatra such as the Sumatran Tiger.
Behavior and reproduction
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The Bornean Orangutan is more solitary than the Sumatran Orangutan. Two or three orangutans that have overlapping territories may interact for small periods of time. Males and females generally come together only to mate. Sub-adult males will try to mate with any female, though they probably mostly fail to impregnate them since mature females are easily capable of fending them off. Mature females prefer to mate with mature males.
Newborn orangutans nurse every three to four hours, and begin to take soft food from their mothers' lips by four months. During the first year of its life, the baby clings to its mother's abdomen by entwining its fingers in and gripping her fur. Babies stay with their mothers until they are about eight or nine years old and have a long childhood compared to other apes.
The Bornean Orangutan is more common than the Sumatran, with about 45,000 individuals existing in the wild; there are only about 7,500 of the Sumatran species left in the wild. Orangutans are becoming increasingly endangered due to habitat destruction and the bushmeat trade, and young orangutans are captured to be sold as pets, usually entailing the killing of their mothers.
The Bornean Orangutan is endangered according to the IUCN Red List of mammals, and is listed on Appendix I of CITES. The total number of Bornean Orangutans is estimated to be less than 14 percent of what it was in the recent past (from around 10,000 years ago until the middle of the twentieth century) and this sharp decline has occurred mostly over the past few decades due to human activities and development. Species distribution is now highly patchy throughout Borneo: it is apparently absent or uncommon in the south-east of the island, as well as in the forests between the Rejang River in central Sarawak and the Padas River in western Sabah (including the Sultanate of Brunei). The largest remaining population is found in the forest around the Sabangau River, but this environment is at risk. According to the IUCN, it is expected that in 10 to 30 years orangutans will be extinct if there is no serious effort to overcome the threats that they are facing.
This view is also supported by the United Nations Environment Programme, which states in its report that due to illegal logging, fire and the extensive development of oil palm plantations (see Environmental impact of palm oil), orangutans are endangered, and if the current trend continues, they will become extinct.
Rescue and Rehabilitation
A number of orangutan rescue and rehabilitation projects operate in Borneo.
The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) founded by Dr Willie Smits has rescue and rehabilitation centres at Wanariset in East Kalimantan and Nyaru Menteng, in Central Kalimantan founded and managed by Lone Drøscher Nielsen. BOS also works to save and recreate the fast disappearing rainforest habitat of the orangutan, at Samboja Lestari and Mawas.
Orangutan Foundation International, founded by Dr Birutė Galdikas, rescues and rehabilitates orangutans, preparing them for release back into protected areas of the Indonesian rain forest. In addition, OFI promotes the preservation of the rain forest itself.
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- ^ Density and population estimate of gibbons (Hylobates albibarbis) in the Sabangau catchment, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
- ^ NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Wild Orangutans: Extinct by 2023?
- ^ FOX NEWS: Orangutans in Losing Battle in Indonesia
- ^ United Nations Environment Programme: The Last Stand of the Orangutan - State of Emergency: Illegal Logging, Fire and Palm Oil in Indonesia's National Parks