Female Tapanuli orangutan. Photo credit: Tim Laman/Creative Commons

Common names are not officially defined. They are based on everyday conversational language and may differ by country, region, profession, community, or other factors. As a result, it is not unusual for a species to have more than one common name.

Scientific names are in Latin and they are written in italics. They are standardized and for everyone, no matter what language you may speak. They are bound by a formal naming system, called binominal nomenclature, that has strict rules. Scientific names prevent misidentification. Those names only change if a species, or its genus, is officially redesignated by experts.

Tapanuli orangutans are only found in the South Tapanuli region of Sumatra in a small territory covering about 390 sq mi (1,010 sq km). Their native Batang Toru region is a rich landscape of hilly lowland tropical rainforest and mossy mountainous forest, divided by the Sumatran rift valley.

  • Tapanuli orangutans were recognized as a distinct orangutan species via DNA analysis in late 2017
  • They are thought to be the most ancient of the three orangutan species
  • Only 800 individuals are estimated to exist
  • The long high-pitched call of the male Tapanuli orangutan is a mix between the calls that males in Borneo and Sumatra produce
  • Their calls last longer and are delivered with more pulses at a higher rate than those of the other orangutan species
They are at an extremely high risk of becoming extinct in the wild.

Because most of the lowlands surrounding their habitat have already been converted for agriculture, the survival of Tapanuli orangutans is even more challenging than that of the Sumatran and Bornean species. Confined to a small geographical area, Tapanuli orangutans are already split into three blocks—East, West, and those in the Sibuali-Buali Nature Reserve. Without access to wild corridors, the current population may not be able to reproduce and maintain the healthy gene pool that is crucial to its survival. In addition to habitat loss, orangutans are killed as agricultural pests, and hunted for the pet trade.

  1. Although very cute when babies, orangutans are very large tree-dwelling apes whose dietary and environmental needs cannot be adequately met or replicated in human living conditions. 
  2. To become pets, baby primates are stolen from their mothers. As a result, they do not develop normally emotionally.
  3. When taken from the wild, their mothers are killed to capture the baby.
  4. Trade in Critically Endangered species is illegal.
  5. Primates are never domesticated. They always remain wild. 
  6. Caged primates are very unhappy and frustrated. They are likely to resist confinement. They are quick and cause damaging bites and scratches. Some die as a result of their captivity.
  7. Many locations have strict regulations that prohibit trading in or keeping primates and endangered species are pets.
  8. Tapanuli orangutans belong with other Tapanuli orangutans in Sumatra, Indonesia. They and their habitats must be protected, not exploited.

Visit the TAPANULI ORANGUTAN Primate Species Profile

 Copyright © New England Primate Conservancy 2019. You may freely use and share these learning activities for educational purposes. 
For questions or comments, e-mail us at [email protected].