Orangutans’ Favorite Forest Foods

Mango (Mangifera sp.)
Forest ginger (Etlingera sp.)

Date Posted: April 18, 2022
Text by: BOS Foundation Communications Team in Bogor HQ, West Java

While orangutans are referred to as 'frugivores', with fruit as their primary food source, they are recorded to be able to consume 2,000 different types of foods in the forest. In addition to fruit, orangutans also eat grasses, leaves, bark, flowers, mushrooms, piths, insects, honey, and, sometimes, eggs.

The following are a few of the fruits most commonly recorded by our Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) team when they observe orangutans foraging in the forest.

Several varieties of mahang, or macaranga, grow in the forest throughout the year. Orangutans not only eat the fruit of these plants, but also other parts, including the young leaves and bark.

An interesting fact about the mahang plant is that most of its parts have medicinal properties: The bark is useful for treating diarrhea and the sap extracted from the stem can be used to treat wounds in the mouth or throat. This plant also contains tannins, an active compound known to have various medical benefits, as an astringent, an anti-diarrheal, an anti-bacterial, and an antioxidant.

Mango (Mangifera sp.) fruit is certainly familiar to humans, although the wild variety is usually more sour than those we consume. Mangoes contain high levels of vitamin C, which is good for building up antibodies and immunity. Orangutans thoroughly love eating sour mangoes in the forest!

Forest ginger (Etlingera sp.) is eaten by orangutans and found in forests across Indonesia. They are abundant in the Kehje Sewen Forest, where our patrolling PRM teams uses the sight of shredded forest ginger as markers for the presence of orangutans. Aside from being a favorite amongst orangutans, this plant is also favored by wild boars.

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