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What Do Orangutans Eat?

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Orangutans are mostly found in the forests of Borneo and North Sumatra, where they originate from.  Orangutans males are mostly solitary, while the females live with their offspring.  Females will nurse their young up to the age of 6 years or until the new offspring is born.

There are three species of Orangutans namely:

Sumatran Orangutans which are only found in the northern part of the Indonisian Island of Sumatra.

Bornian Orangutans, which is found in the forest of Borneo.

Tapanuli Orangutans, found in other parts of Sumatra Island.

Orangutans have a lifespan of about 40 – 60 years in the wild and 40 – 70 years in captivity.

Orangutans’ reproduction rates are very slow and they only reproduce every 7 to 8 years.  It also takes a female orangutan up to 17 years to start reproducing.

Orangutan males have padded cheeks and these males are usually the males that reproduce with the females.  Females do not have padded cheeks and some of the non reproductive males also do not have the padded cheeks.

What Do Orangutans Eat

Orangutans are Omnivores whose diets consist of 90% fruits and berries.  They also eat the leaves and bark of up to 25 species of trees, but they will also eat termites, ants, small birds and lizards to make up their full dietary needs.

Here is a list of the foods that Orangutans eat:

Ficus Fruit

Orangutans will eat ficus fruits as these fruits are easily accessible and have many of the nutrients that Orangutans need in their diet.  Ficus are also easy to digest and these fruits are very soft and easy to open and to eat.  Baby Orangutans also like the soft fleshy and sweet taste of ficus.

Durian Fruit

Durian fruit is Orangutans favorite food.  The fruits are big and spiky fruits that grow in Orangutans natural habitat.  These fruits have a very bad smell and have a cheesy and garlic taste.  They open the hard outside of the fruit with their hands and eat the fleshy inside but spit the pits out.  Durian fruits have a fatty pulp which is important to their diet as it contains much needed nutrients.

Other fruits

As 90% of Orangutans’ diets consist of fruit they eat all kinds of available fruit like bananas, apples, oranges and any other types they find.  Most of these fruits are very high in vitamins and carbohydrates that assist with the overall well being of the Orangutans.


Orangutans also eat leaves from almost 25 different trees.  These leaves are very high in nutrients and also assists with the digestion of foods.  Orangutans can eat up to 400 different species of plants.  Some of these plants are highly toxic to other animals, but their bodies are very well adapted to handle the toxins in these foods.  When they eat toxic leaves they will secrete more saliva to get rid of the toxins easely.

Bark of Trees

Orangutans strip the bark of trees naturally inhabited in the Rainforest, which is their natural habitat. They usually chew the bark for its nutrients but spit it out and do not swallow it. The bark of these trees contains all kinds of nutrients and supplements that Orangutans need to be healthy.


Although Orangutans mainly feed on fruits they also eat all kinds of insects like Termites, Ants and Crickets as these insects contain a lot of fatty acids and proteins needed in their diet.

Small birds and Lizards

Orangutans, in some cases will feed on small birds, bird eggs  and lizards if the fruits, leaves and bark of trees are not readily available which is their natural food preference, and if there is a lack of protein supplements in their diets.

How Much Do Orangutans Eat?

In the wild Orangutans forage for between 7 – 8 hour a day and can eat up to 25 different kinds of fruits and leaves.  During times when food is readily available male Orangutans can take in up to 8 000 kilojoules per day and the females up to 7 000 kilojoules per day.

In times when food is scarce they will only take in about 1500 to 3 000 kilojoules per day and eat small birds and lizards to assist with their nutritional needs.

In captivity Orangutans are usually fed three times daily.  As their natural food is not always available they will feed on all different kinds of fruits like apples, bananas and oranges and vegetables like carrots, cabbage and spinach.

Orangutans do not really drink a lot of water as the moisture they need are in the fruits that they eat.

They will however sometimes drink water from small puddles.  Mothers sometimes drink water and give some to the babies by opening their mouths and the baby will drink water from their mothers mouth.

What Do Baby Orangutans Eat?

Baby Orangutans mainly drink from their mother up to an age of about 7 years old. When they are weaned or the mothers are pregnant.  They forage with their mother and are taught how to open fruits and which leaves and bark they can eat.  They are very playful which is also a learning process to help them to forage when they are weaned and have to find food on their own.

How to Feed Orangutans

When Orangutans are rescued from the wild they are usually taken to zoos or to rehabilitation centres.

At zoos, orangutans are introduced to all kinds of foods which are not a part of their natural diet as some of the natural fruits and plants they eat are not available at zoos.

They are still fed a lot of fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, spinach and sprouts and treats like papaya and peanut butter.

At rehabilitation centres they try to keep to the Orangutans natural foods to enable them to be rehabilitated into the wild after their rehabilitation.

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