Orangutan Adaptations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: April Inocente
They live deep in the Asian rainforests, and even if you walked through there, you probably would never see them. Read about how orangutans have adapted to living safely in this environment despite the many dangers.


If you were to take a safari expedition through the dense rainforests in Asia, you might see many fascinating animals, such as Bengal tigers, cobras, or monkeys. But there is a red giant living high up in the canopy above you that cannot be seen. It has a loud, booming call that will give you goose bumps. These animals are well-camouflaged, and they don't even have to set foot on the ground to survive. So if you do see an orangutan, consider yourself lucky!

Physical Adaptations

Orangutans are the only ape species that live in trees full-time. To carry their heavy, 150-pound to 300-pound bodies from branch to branch, they have strong, very long arms. These arms can reach seven feet, which is longer than their bodies! They also have strong, short legs with flexible hips to aid in climbing.

Orangutans have five fingers just like humans, so they can grip branches very well. They are also great at grabbing and opening the fruit that they eat. The pads of their fingers and hands are very sensitive. This allows them to control the movement of each finger and create a unique grip for different tasks.

Male orangutan
male orangutan

These giant animals are well-camouflaged high up in the rainforest trees. They are a reddish-orange color, which is similar to the sunny reddish-orange tones shining down through the rainforest canopy. By the time the light filters down to the rainforest floor, the orangutan has blended in with the light. This helps them hide from the eyes of hungry predators.

Because orangutans live in tropical regions, they are subject to heat, humidity, rain, and blazing sunlight. They have adapted dark-colored eyes to protect them from harmful UV, or ultraviolet, light coming from the sun. Dark eyes absorb more of the UV light before it can hit the back of the eye, where damage can occur.

Behavioral Adaptations

Although they are very intelligent animals who have social encounters, orangutans live a mostly solitary life. The males have a loud booming call that can travel up to a mile to warn other males that they are in the area and to let receptive females know they are there. These large males are very aggressive, and they often have scars and battle wounds from fights with other males.

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