'Orang' and 'utan' are the Malay words meaning 'person' and 'forest'; the orangutan is literally a 'person of the forest'.

Orangutans and Humans

The orangutan's distribution has been steadily declining over the years. Even though it is a protected species about 4-5,000 are killed every year.  Its ancestors' remains have been found in 14 million-year-old deposits in Punjab, India. Fossil remains also show that a giant race of orangutans existed in China 500,000 years ago. They also lived as far south as Java. Today the population is restricted to parts of Borneo and the north of Sumatra. In Borneo, its range has come under further threat from the forest fires of last year, which destroyed two million hectares of rainforest, killing many orangutans, and driving others into the open, forcing them to beg from humans for food.

Read More: Deforestation

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