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Orangutans (Pongo spp.) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat


Prehistoric distribution

  • Distribution spanned across mainland Asia from northern India, to southern China, Viet Nam, the Malay peninsula, and Java

Present range

  • Orangutans are the only great apes found today outside of Africa (Delgado & Van Schaik 2000)
  • Sumatra and Borneo
  • Fragmented distribution
    • In Borneo, at least 61 small fragments
    • In Sumatra, 23 pieces
  • Reduction of range during the Pleistocene
    • Most likely due to selective hunting by prehistoric humans and to changing environmental conditions


Ideal habitat

  • Alluvial forest, lowland swamps, and mountain foothills
  • Usually found within 10-15 km of water (stream, river, swamp)
  • Need an abundance of fleshy fruits
    • Seasonal changes in abundance of orangutans due to heterogeneous distribution of fruit

Elevation range

  • Up to 200-400 m
  • In Borneo, orangutans are not found above 500 m
  • In Sumatra, some populations can be found at 1,000-1,500 m

Distribution Map

orangutan distribution map

Orangutan distribution. Black box represents the approximate distribution of the Sumatran orangutan; red box represents the Bornean organutan.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheets for Pongo abelii and P. pygmaeus. See IUCN pages for detailed distribution.

Page Citations

Delgado & Van Schaik (2000)
Rijksen, and Meijaard, (1999)
Van Schaik et al., (1995)

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