How Do Orangutans Protect Themselves?

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While orangutans have few natural predators, these arboreal apes are capable of defending themselves when needed, using their sharp teeth and exceptional strength. Living in the trees on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, they remain safe from terrestrial predators such as tigers and clouded leopards.

In rare cases, orangutans have been known to bite humans who attempt to harm their young or encroach on their nests.

However, in general, orangutans are relatively peaceful creatures, preferring to live among the treetops undisturbed. In fact, they rarely eat meat, subsisting primarily on fruit, palm tree stems, leaves, and other vegetation.

Humans represent the biggest threat to orangutans. They destroy the apes' habitat, which diminishes their food supply as well as their shelter. The rainforests where orangutans live are cleared for timber and palm oil or for the growing of crops. Also, roads built in the forest cut the orangutans' habitat in half as the apes are reluctant to cross cleared areas of land. Humans hunt orangutans for food or capture them to sell them on to disreputable zoos or to keep the young ones as pets.

Orangutans are capable of using a number of materials as tools, from making leaf umbrellas to protect themselves from downpours to using sticks for foraging.