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The Great Apes are large primates found in different parts of the world. Chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas, are all found on the continent of Africa. The orangutan is found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Great apes are larger than the Lesser Apes, which consists of the different species of gibbons and siamangs.


Orangutans are great apes found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The name orangutan means "person of the forest" in Malay. There are two subspecies of orangutan. The Bornean and Sumatran. Bornean and Sumatran orangutans differ in many ways. Male Bornean orangutans are larger than male Sumatrans. They can weigh around 220 pounds and reaching 5 feet in height when full grown. They have larger cheek pads and throat pouches when compared to Sumatran males. Female orangutans are much smaller than males. They weigh about half as much.

Orangutans eat a wide variety of food. They eat around 400 different types of food. Their diet includes leaves, bark, flowers, various species of fruit, insects, and birds eggs.

When an adult female orangutan has an infant, the infant will cling to her wherever she goes. Eventually the infant will start to stray from his/her mother, but still staying close to her. They learn from their mother. They learn things such as nest building, and what to eat. When the orangutan is mature, they will leave their mother and live on their own. Although the life expectancy of wild orangutans is unknown, a wild born captive pair lived in a zoo for over 50 years.

Orangutans are a very intelligent species. They share about 95% of the same genetics with humans. In captivity, orangutans have been able to learn sign language and other forms of communication.

Orangutans are an endangered species. There are no more than 15,000 orangutans left in the wild. They are primarily endangered because of the destruction of their rainforest home and poaching. The orangutan's rainforest home is being destroyed by logging, agriculture, and fires. Often an orangutan mother is killed so that her infant can be sold in the live animal trade. For every infant that survives, 6 to 8 infant orangutans die. If orangutans are to survive as a species, laws protecting them and their rainforest habitat must be enforced. The public must be educated about orangutans and how important they are to the environment. It has been estimated that if something isn't done to help orangutans, they could be gone within the next 20 years!

If you would like to learn more about orangutans and how to protect them, visit the Orangutan Foundation International.


Chimpanzees are found in equatorial Africa. Male chimpanzees are about 5.5 feet high when standing, and may weigh as much as 150 pounds. Chimpanzees and bonobos have a dark coat, the fingers, feet, palms of the hand, and face are hairless.

Chimpanzees are omnivores. They eat about 200 kinds of leaves and fruit. They may eat termites, ants, honey, birdsí eggs, birds, and small mammals.

After they are born, infant chimps cling to their mother and ride on her back when she travels. Adult chimpanzees build a new nest to sleep in every night. Young chimps may sleep with their mother in a nest until they are weaned at about 4 years. They may then live with their mothers until they are about 10 years old. Chimps may live to be 40 years old in the wild, and over 50 in captivity.

Chimpanzees often travel in troops. Troops may consist of 2-80 individuals. Females may migrate to other troops, but males stay in the same troop.

Chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than any other animal. They are intelligent animals. Chimps have been observed in the wild to use tools. This includes fishing termites out of a mound with a twig. Captive chimps have been taught sign language to communicate with humans.

Chimpanzees are an endangered species. They are endangered due to loss of habitat from logging, and poaching. There are laws protecting chimps from being hunted and sold, but some of these laws are difficult to enforce.

If you would like to learn how to help chimpanzees visit the Jane Goodall Institute.


Bonobos are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa. Bonobos are also known as pygmy chimpanzees.

Bonobos look very similar to chimpanzees except they are shorter, and have longer limbs and a more upright posture. Male bonobos are about 34 inches in height and weigh about 90 pounds. Bonobos have a black coat, with shiny black facial skin.

Bonobos spend much of their time in trees. They build nests in trees for sleeping. They eat mostly fruit, and also leaves, insects, and nuts. Bonobos occasionally eat snakes, monkeys, and small antelope. Bonobos live in troops of about 30-80 individuals. They divide into smaller groups for foraging.

Due to illegal hunting of bonobos for food and export, and also the destruction of their home, bonobos are an endangered species.

If you would like to learn more about bonobos, visit the Bonobo Protection Fund.


Gorillas live in the forests of equatorial Africa. Their are 3 types of gorillas: the western lowland, the eastern lowland, and the mountain gorilla.

Males gorillas may reach a height of 5.5 feet and a weight of 400 pounds. Female gorillas are about 1 ft shorter than males, and weigh about half as much. Gorillas have black skin and black hair. As males get older, the hair on their back turns silver, this is why they are given the name silverback.

Gorillas are shy and gentle animals. They often live in groups of 5-15. A band of gorillas usually consist of 1 silverback, 1 or 2 other males, several females, and young. Gorillas forage fore plants, berries, and leaves each day. Each night, gorillas build camps where the band sleeps. The females and young sometimes sleep in platforms made of branches and leaves in trees, while the older males nest at the base of a tree. Gorillas may live to be about 30 years old.

Gorillas in captivity have been taught sign language. Gorillas have also proven to be able to discriminate between geometric shapes. Gorillas are an endangered species due to human encroachment on their habitat and also poaching.

To learn more about gorillas, please visit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.