Just like the proboscis monkey we saw last week, our next animal is an arboreal primate, which just means that it is a primate that spends most of its time in trees. I want you to see an orangutan. Make sure you bring your binoculars like you did last week, but the orangutans are much bigger than the proboscis monkeys. Male orangutans can grow to be over four feet tall and weigh more than 280 pounds!
Come on, let’s see if we can spot one in the wild. If we listen, we might hear one calling. They don’t usually make a lot of sounds, but the adult males use a pouch in their throat to make a “long call” when they are looking for a female orangutan. One long call can last five minutes and is made up of a series of roars.
You look nervous; is something wrong? Oh, you’re worried about what orangutans like to eat. They love fresh, ripe fruit. Don’t worry, they almost never eat meat! Like any animal, we don’t want to get too close to it and make it feel threatened, but you don’t have to worry about one jumping out of a tree and landing on your head or anything like that!
Shhhh—I heard a roar. It’s continuing. I think we’re on the right trail. Start scanning those trees over there to your left with your binoculars. Do you see one?
Oh, that’s right. I forgot to tell you how we can identify the adult males from the younger males. The adult males have big patches of skin on their faces called cheek pads. Only the adult males have these.
There it is! Look up there! Do you see it swinging from one tree to the next? It can do that using its feet and hands at the same time, or just hang from its arms and swing like that one is doing.
To see a picture of a mother and baby orangutan, click here.
Listen to some of the calls of an orangutan on this page. Click the audio link found directly under the map.
* Watch orangutans in their natural environment climbing and building a nest here.
* Note to parents: There are inappropriate and potentially offensive comments visible with this clip if you scroll past the video. Please view the page with your children.
Use this website to answer the following questions:
True or False:
1. Orangutans build nests in the trees to sleep in.
2. Female orangutans usually have just one baby every eight years.
3. Orangutans in captivity have been known to live as long as 60 years.
Research challenge: Describe the features of an orangutan’s anatomy, including flexible hip joints and opposable big toes, which are especially suited to its life in the treetops.
Here is a printable notebooking page to enjoy!