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Orangutans Unit Study and Badge Resources

The third Friday in May every year is National Endangered Species Day. This year we thought to honor the day by offering a unit study on a specific endangered animal, the orangutan.  The resources below can be used to earn your Orangutans badge and learn more about their habitat and ways in which you can help protect them. Other badges you may wish to earn alongside may include World Geography, Biomes, or Conservation.

Orangutan Basics

In learning about any animal, the first thing you need to know is how to recognize the animal and the proper vocabulary when discussing them. Here are the basics for orangutans:

Adult Male:

Recognizable by the large cheek flaps or flanges on either side of their face as well as their throat sack.

Adult Female:

Have a rounded skull and narrow faces.


Less hair and wider eyes.


A group of orangutans is called a “congress”

The World Wildlife Federation posted 10 fun facts about orangutans. Visit their website for more information on each fact.

  • 1. There are three species of orangutan: the Bornean, the Sumatran and the Tapanuli.
  • 2. Orangutans are the heaviest tree dwelling animal.
  • 3. They have LONG arms. Orangutans have an arm span of about 2.2 m (over 7 ft) from fingertip to fingertip.
  • 4. They don’t mind eating with their feet.
  • 5. Orangutans learn everything from their mom, staying with them until they are around 7 years old.
  • 6. Adult males are majestic with large flaps of fatty tissue on both sides of their face that the females seem to like.
  • 7. They build a nest to sleep in each night.
  • 8. Some orangutans use tools like sticks to get termites, ants or bees out of tree holes.
  • 9. They like stinky fruit. The durian fruit is the favorite fruit of orangutans and it is best known for its stench. Apparently it smells like a cross between sewage, rotting flesh and smelly socks.
  • 10. They are critically endangered.

To Do: Watch the National Geographic Documentary on orangutans.

To Do: Many zoos and animal rescues have orangutans in captivity. Visit one if you can.

Fulfill preschool requirements 1 & 2

Orangutan Crafts

Having some fun with arts and crafts helps to make subjects more personal and helps kids connect.

To Do: Choose an orangutan craft project to complete or paint or draw an orangutan. RedTedArt has a variety of cut projects that require little in the way of supplies other than some paper, glue and scissors.

Toilet Paper Roll Orangutan

Fulfills optional requirement #5

Orangutan Characteristics and Habits

The question of learned behavior verses instinct is sometimes hard to differentiate in animals. Since orangutans learn most of their behavior from their mother’s, it is easier to see what comes naturally and what they need to learn.

To Do: Watch the video, 360° Orangutan School by National Geographic to learn what types of things mother orangutans must teach their babies if they are to survive in the wild. These baby orangutans were rescued and their human parents need to teach them to survive so they can be returned to the wild.

Fulfills Level 1 and Level 3 requirement #2

Reduction of the Rain Forest

Orangutans in the wild are only found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia and Malaysia. The main threat to the survival of orangutan populations in the wild is the massive expansion of palm oil plantations in that area. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicated in 2007 that oil palm plantations are the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia and as a result, the leading cause of the destruction of the habitat of the orangutan

To Do: Find Sumatra and Borneo on a world map.

To Do: Print the 2 column chart below. Find five things in your house that have palm oil in them and write them in the left column. Go online or to the grocery store and find similar products that don’t use palm oil. Write these products on the right. How hard is it to find a replacement for those items with palm oil? Would you be willing to change your lifestyle to eliminate palm oil from your house?

Fulfills Level 2 requirement #2

Associations and Foundations to Help Save Orangutans

Like many endangered species there are plenty of people around the world who are doing their best to save them.

To Do: Learn about the following organizations and choose a way to the orangutans. You can adopt an orangutan, write a review or article to help their websites or bring awareness, help raise awareness about palm oil, etc.

Orangutan Conservancy

The Orangutan Conservancy (OC) is dedicated to the protection of orangutans in their natural habitat through wild research, capacity building, education and public awareness programs, and by supporting numerous on-the-ground efforts to save Southeast Asia’s only great ape.

Orangutan Foundation

“Founded in 1990, Orangutan Foundation has a unique and diverse approach to orangutan conservation. We support all orangutan species and our work is carried out by a team of dedicated Indonesian staff.”

The Orangutan Project

“We’re a passionate group of people dedicated to saving the orangutan, led by an experienced set of wildlife experts that have been working for over 20 years to protect orangutans. Together our brand, staff, supporters, partners and the community are working to protect orangutans from extinction.”

World Wildlife Federation

“WWF is the world’s leading independent conservation organization. Our mission is to create a world where people and wildlife can thrive together.”

Fulfills Level 4 requirement #2 and optional requirement #12

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