The Language of Orangutans

Orangutans do communicate with one another and if we pay close attention we can “hear” what they are saying.

Many of the things they say are without words.

Orangutans keep their palms down and let their arms hang loosely most of the time.  orang-utan on  ground under trees.  fotosearch - search  stock photos,  pictures, images,  and photo clipart  When they put their palms up it means aggression or attack mode.

If an orangutan shakes its body and makes motions like throwing sticks it is saying it is not happy and that you should stay away.

  When an orangutan looks like it is smiling and shows its teeth it is really being aggressive and is not happy to see you.

Only impolite orangutans look another orangutan in the eye.  If one orangutan does not know another it should never look directly in the others eyes.  If the eye contact is too long it may be another form of showing aggression.  So, if you come across an orangutan you don’t know make sure you look at him out of the corner of your eye.

orang utan (pongo  pygmaeus) watching,   close up,  gunung  leuser np. fotosearch  - search stock  photos, pictures,  images, and photo  clipart  If  an orangutan puts a leaf or flower in its mouth (but doesn’t eat it) and looks at anther orangutan, it could mean they like them.  But, sometimes an orangutan will do this unintentionally and doesn’t mean anything by it at all.  orangutan. fotosearch  - search stock  photos, pictures,  images, and photo  clipart

Orangutans show interest in one another by looking at each other out of the corner of their eyes, quickly passing a hand over their head and making a high pitched sound.  The other orangutan knows exactly what is meant and can respond to this interest if it wants to.

To show close friendship two orangutans will greet each other by gently placing their finger in the others eye.  This shows complete trust in each other and says “I love you” between orangutans.

Orangutans have many of the same facial expressions as we do.  If you pay close attention you will read anxiety, fear, anger and happiness in an orangutan’s face.  You just need to know what to look for since they do not show these emotions in the same way as humans.

There are many other ways of communication an orangutan uses that involve the whole body such as stretching, jumping, arching back, lip smacking, hair bristling, waving head, shaking moving or raising of the arms and hands, and thrashing on their chest.


  Only flanged (see my blog on Man of the Forest – Flanged or Unflanged) perform the long-call.  This may be heard over several miles sometimes and lasts for one to two minutes.  It is an advertisement to any females around that he is here and interested in having company from the ladies.  At the same time it is a warning to males that they should stay away if they know what is best for them.  It may even suppress adolescent males from developing sexual characteristics resulting in the unflanged appearance.  Unless another male feels ready for the challenge they flee from the sound of long-calls.  While at the same time interested ladies use it as a tracking device for flanged males and respond accordingly.

The fast-call is another form of talking and is used for a variety of reasons.  One would be when a dominant male sees another male fleeing after he makes a long-call.

So, you need to listen to the orangutans with your ears and your eyes to really know what they are saying.

Although sometimes it is very easy to see what an orangutan is feeling.    Too bad not every baby orangutan in the world has the same feeling as this little one did when this picture was taken.

Kind Regards,

April & Kesi

Kesi on ground


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: