Orangutans: They’re 97% Like Us. {Video}

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GD Animal of the week orangutan

Orangutans are 97 percent genetically identical to human beings.

Anyone who has stared into the eyes of a great ape has had the feeling that it is not an exchange between human and animal but rather between kindred spirits. As stated by Richard Dawkins, “we admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realize that we are apes.”

Orangutans are fascinating in their intelligence, culture and relationships—and are also critically endangered.

Here’s a video of the adorable baby orangutan Rickina!

In order to protect one of our closest living relatives from extinction, we first have to understand why they are so threatened.

There are actually two species of orangutan—Bornean and Sumatran. As the names indicate, they can only be found in Borneo and Sumatran which are located in Indonesian tropical rainforest. They live up to 90 percent of their lives in the trees, making them the largest tree-dwelling mammal in the world. 

Since the rainforest and the trees are so critical to their survival, it is natural that deforestation is the biggest threat to orangutan survival. Currently, the biggest driver of Indonesian deforestation is the palm oil industry—palm oil is currently used in 50 percent of commercial products in the United States and is also used in European biofuel.

Ninety percent of palm oil production is located in Indonesia and Malaysia, and is the greatest cause of tropical deforestation in southeast Asia. Orangutans die as a result of  habitat loss and are also killed in slash and burn tactics of clearing land for palm oil production. 

orangutan jane goodall quote

In addition to the fact that orangutans tug at our heart strings, they also are a very important part of rainforest ecosystems.

As they swing through the treetops, they catch seeds in their fur and work to disperse those seeds through the forest. Without them, many plant species would not be able to survive and spread. 

Orangutans also have a family structure very similar to humans—babies stay with their mothers for five to 10 years, the longest of any animal besides us. Females also only give birth to about three to four babies in their lifetime, making the species very hard to rebuild and grow.

Watch this documentary short, Green – An Orangutan’s journey, a film by Patrick Rouxel.

Her name is Green, she is alone in a world that doesn’t belong to her. She is a female orangutan, victim of deforestation and resource exploitation.

Watch this BBC Earth video to see DIY orangutans…

And an orangutan recognizing himself…

Take action for orangutans!

August 19th is World  Orangutan Day! Learn how to help save these amazing creatures.

Make a donation to the Orangutan Land Trust.

“What you do makes a difference, but you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall 

For more GD Animal of the Week posts, click here.


Find out how climate change can impact our wild animal friends in this Green Divas Radio Show interview with science communicator Greg Laden.

Conservation, Earth News, Environment, Featured, GD TV, Nature, sustainability, Wildlife Preservation

About the author / 

Green Diva Anna

Anna LoPresti is a Green Diva in Training and studies Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

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