Three Species of Orangutans in Indonesia, The Smartest Primates on Earth

Photo Source: Florina via Beritasatu - Orang utan (written: orangutan) do not mean humans who live in the forest but great apes who spend most of their time in trees.

One of the smartest primates on earth comes from the rainforests of Indonesia and some are found in Malaysia.

These great apes are called maias in Sarawak and mawas in other parts of Borneo and Sumatra.

Currently, animals classified in the genus Pongo are only found in parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Orangutans are the only surviving genus of the subfamily Ponginae, which was genetically separated from other hominids tens of millions of years ago.

Three Species of Orangutans

Initially, orangutans were thought to be only one species. However, over time the orangutans were identified as three species, all of which live in Indonesia.

The three species are the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis).
Male Bornean, Sumatran and Tapanuli orangutans with cheek pads. (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

In 1996, orangutans were divided into two species, namely the Sumatran orangutan and the Bornean orangutan with three subspecies.

In 2017 on the island of Sumatra a third species was also identified, namely the Tapanuli orangutan whose habitat is in the Batang Toru region, south of Lake Toba.

The Tapanuli Orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) has a closer kinship with the Bornean Orangutan.

From the results of the study, Pongo tapanuliensis is more related to Pongo pygmaeus (Borneo orangutan), compared to its fellow species, Pongo abelii (Sumatran orangutan).

Orangutan Description

The orangutan was first scientifically described in 1758 in Systema Naturae by Carolus Linnaeus as H. troglodytes.

In 1760 this name was later changed to Simia pygmaeus by Christian Emmanuel Hopp, a student of Carolus Linnaeus.

Subsequently, the name Simia pygmaeus was named as Pongo by Bernard Germain de Lacépède, a French freemason and naturalist.

In 1827, the French naturalist, René Lesson, proposed that the orangutan populations in Sumatra and Kalimantan were two different species when he described Pongo abelii.

Based on molecular evidence published in 1996, Pongo abelii was formalized as a separate species in 2001.

Meanwhile, three different populations in Kalimantan were upgraded to subspecies (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, Pongo pygmaeus morio and Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii). (*)

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