The Unhurried Life of Orangutans
Orangutans have “the slowest” life story among all mammals. They take the longest time to grow up and are the slowest to breed. Females become sexually active at the age of 11 or 12, although it is not uncommon for the first offspring to appear when they are 15 or 16.
Their menstrual cycle is 29 - 32 days, with a menstrual period of only 4 days. Pregnancy lasts 8.5 months. Usually one infant is born every 8 years, more or less.
Orangutan babies remain in close relations with their mothers for a very long time. During the first two years, an infant depends upon its mother completely in terms of food and transport. It firmly hangs on to the fur on its mom’s belly, back or side.
Mothers defend their young to such an extent that if an infant is taken away by live animal dealers, it usually results in the female’s death.
Young individuals do not leave their mom’s side until they are five and sometimes even eight years old. Often even 10-year-old orangutans stay close to their mothers and older ones visit very often.
Such a long-term relationship between a mother and her offspring is rare in the animal world.
Primatologists believe that this long childhood arises from the many years of learning that young orangutans face. Young orangutans learn from their mothers almost everything. They must learn such things as what they can and should eat, where to find food, how to get it and what tools to use for this purpose. Mothers show their offspring how to build a comfortable night nest and what kind of leaves should be used as protection against rain. Also, females teach young ones to avoid predators and shy away from humans. They also show them how to move safely among rainforest tree branches.
In the wild, orangutans live only 45 years!