The only great ape that lives on the Asian continent, the orangutan is found on the Malaysian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Its name means “man of the forest,” and it is one of thousands of species of wildlife that live in tropical Asian forests.
The orangutan’s story is similar to that of a large number of Asian animals: its forest habitat is being rapidly destroyed by conversion to agriculture, both by large commercial plantations and smaller subsistence farms. At the same time, humans are killing the orang’s prey species (birds and small mammals) for food and capturing it for the pet trade.
There are an estimated 30,000 orangutans left in the wild, about 20,000 on Borneo and under 10,000 on Sumatra. Scientists are uncertain whether all orangutans are one species, or whether the Sumatran and Bornean populations have become so isolated from each other that they are two subspecies.