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What are the 3 Types of Orangutans?

What are the 3 Types of Orangutans

There are currently three types of orangutans:

  • Bornean
  • Sumatran
  • Tapanuli

The Tapanuli orangutan is the most recent discovery when it comes to orangutan species. It was discovered in 2017. There are a few subtle differences between the three species. The Bornean and Sumatran orangutans both have orange fur, however, the Sumatran orangutan has longer facial hair.

The Tapanuli orangutan looks similar to the Sumatran orangutan, but there are also some key differences between the Tapanuli and other orangutans. They have smaller heads and wider faces as well as frizzier hair which makes them different from the other orangutan species on this list.

What is the Bornean Orangutan?

The Bornean orangutan is an orangutan species that lives in Borneo. It is a critically endangered species whose habitat has declined by at least 50% in the last few decades. It might go extinct if the shrinking of its habitat continues.

They are also quite similar to the Sumatran orangutan, but it does also have some distinct features that make them different. It has a broader face as well as a slightly darker appearance. It also doesn’t have as much facial hair as the Sumatran orangutan, which is instantly noticeable.

The Bornean orangutan populates the island of Borneo. Depending on the area where the Bornean orangutan lives, it is also divided into subspecies. The most common subspecies are Northwest, Northeast, and Central orangutans. The Northwest Bornean orangutans are the most endangered of the three, with only about 1,500 inhabitants.

On the other hand, the Central Bornean orangutan is the most populous subspecies with around 35,000 individuals. The main problem with all the subspecies has been habitat loss, which was particularly noticeable in the northwest where the orangutans have lost a lot of lands.

The main reasons for habitat loss include logging and industrialization. These animals are also hunted in the wild, which has created a big problem for the orangutans and has caused sharp declines in population. There are still over 100,000 Bornean orangutans in the wild, but if the logging trends continue, the decline is also going to continue.

Related Article: Do Orangutan Have Opposable Thumbs?

What is the Sumatran Orangutan?

The other very common orangutan subspecies is the Sumatran orangutan. This orangutan populates the forests of Sumatra and the southern part of Java. It is considered to be a critically endangered species with only over 14,000 individuals still living in the wild.

Compared to the Bornean orangutan, the Sumatran orangutan is of similar size, it has reddish hair, and it also has longer facial hair than the Bornean orangutan. At first sight, they might appear to be very similar, but you’ll find that there are some clear differences in appearance such as facial hair.

Sumatran orangutans live on the island of Sumatra and extend to the south of the island of Java. These orangutans will grow to up to 5’6” in size and weigh up to 200 lbs. Compared to Bornean orangutans, they are slightly slimmer and they also have smaller faces, so they might appear to be slightly smaller.

Like the Bornean orangutan, the Sumatran subspecies are also considered to be critically endangered by the IUCN. There are only about 14,000 of these specimens still left in the wild. For the most part, these orangutans stick together in groups, or rather, colonies. Each colony has about 250 members, but some also have up to 1000 members.

The main threat to the existence of this animal is logging and the spreading of industrial plants across the island. They are losing habitat rapidly, which causes them to move to areas where they don’t get food and where they are more likely to live together with larger predators.

About the Tapanuli Orangutan

The third species of orangutans is the Tapanuli orangutan. Also called the Pongo tapanuliensis, it is among the most recently discovered animal species, as it was only discovered in 2017.

The Tapanuli orangutan was already first discovered in 1939, but it was not considered to be its own species back then. It was only discovered in 2017 that this subspecies had some genetic differences to the other orangutan species, making it a more distinct subspecies, which added to the count of orangutan species in the wild.

This orangutan is also critically endangered, as there are only around 800 individuals left in the wild. It is considered to be the rarest great ape in the world and it has suffered many losses because of illegal trade and hunting done by humans. Because this ape is rare, illegal trading is rampant.

The small population size is causing great distress for this animal. It causes them to inbreed, which lowers the quality of the offspring, reduces the numbers of orangutans born each year, and also makes this species more likely to be extinct in the future. Currently, scientists are predicting an 83% drop in the population of this species.

What is the Rarest Orangutan?

The rarest orangutan is the Tapanuli orangutan, which only has around 800 specimens still living in the wild. The numbers of these animals are declining rapidly each year, so the species could become extinct in the future.

But even though the numbers of this animal are low, there are strong conservation efforts to keep it alive. Hopefully, it will work in favor of this species. 

The other two orangutan species are also rare, but not as vulnerable as these subspecies. There are around 100,000 Bornean orangutans and around 14,000 Sumatran orangutans, and they are both critically endangered.


To conclude, there are three main types of orangutans out there: Bornean, Sumatran, and Tapanuli orangutans. All of these subspecies are very similar, but there are also some differences between them.

Perhaps the most crucial difference between these animals is their genetic material. They have different genetical structures and they also differ slightly in appearance. These animals are all critically endangered, but there are conservation efforts in place to keep them all alive.

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