Sumatran Orangutan

Remember when you see the Sumatran orangutans in our Realm of the Red Ape that the survival of this beautiful species is Critically Endangered, and without continued conservation work it could become the first Great Ape to become extinct in the wild.

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Every time you visit Chester Zoo you support our work in the wild to ensure the survival of these graceful, intelligent apes whose biggest current threat in the wild is the conversion of their habitat to oil palm plantations.

We’re at the forefront of the battle to save them. Our Realm of the Red Ape Conservation Programme helps field workers on the south East Asian island of Sumatra to restore the forestry in which they live.

In the past, much of it has been destroyed for logging and agriculture development. There are now only around 6,500 of these apes remaining.

That might sound like a lot, but in the 1990s there were 12,000. If the number carries on going down at the rate it has been, there may soon be no more left.

Dedicated teams are teaching local communities how they can introduce and maintain vital conservation projects for the apes and other irreplaceable wildlife species on Sumatra.

Orangutans are the only non-African Great Ape. They once lived all over Asia but now only exist on Sumatra and Borneo.

Sumatran orangutans differ from their Bornean relatives in a number of ways. Sumatran orangutans are a lighter orange – cinnamon colour and are more slender in build. In male Sumatran orangutans, they have flatter check flanges (cheek pads).

You'll be spellbound by the agility and beauty of our Sumatran orangutans like sisters Subis and Emma, who were born here in 1986 and 1987.

All our orangutans are on the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, a carefully managed scheme overseeing the breeding of zoo animals in different countries and we're immensely proud of our successful breeding record.

Puluh, our spectacular male, has fathered seven, including Indah, born in 2008, Tripa in October 2012 and the latest, Tuti, born in December 2012 to mum Subis.

Help us to do everything we can to safeguard this amazing species in the future.

Find out more about Go Orange for Orangutans, our campaign to help save orangutans in the wild.

Find out more on our Act for Wildlife site

Facts & Info

Interesting facts

Where they live:  Island of Sumatra, Southeast Asia

Habitat: Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests in the lowlands as well as mountainous areas up to an elevation of 1500m.

Size: Up to 1.4m tall.

Weight: Up to 90kg

Threats:  Widespread habitat loss for agricultural development, particularly for palm plantations. Habitat destruction and fragmentation caused by logging. Severe droughts and loss of habitat to forests fires due to increasing incidence of the El Niño climatic event. Hunting for the bushmeat trade, traditional medicine, or the pet trade

Species Information

Scientific name Pongo abelii
Order Primates
Family Hominidae
Genus Pongo
IUCN status Critically Endangered
Roles in the zoo

Research (ex situ): This species is part of applied research that leads to evidence-based decisions regarding in-zoo management.

Insurance population: This is a species that is extinct in the wild or is in imminent danger of extinction. We’re helping to manage a breeding programme at Chester Zoo as part of a conservation action plan.

In situ Conservation Ambassador

Flagship species: This is a species acting as an ambassador for one of our conservation programmes in the wild.


Interdependence: This species helps demonstrate that all living things, including humans, live in ecosystems and depend on other living things for their survival.

Human Impact: This species helps demonstrate that human activities are causing serious environmental damage.

Partnerships: This species helps demonstrate that we work in partnerships with other organisations to conserve nature and natural resources.

Chester Zoo: This species helps demonstrate that as a charity Chester Zoo’s mission is to be a major force in conserving biodiversity worldwide.

You! This species helps demonstrate that we can all make changes to help the environment and zoos can help inspire people to do this.