WHAT’S IN A NAME?
‘Orangutan’ comes from the Malay ‘orang’ (person) and ‘hutan’ (from the forest). The Iban consider the orangutans of Batang Ai to comprise three forms – but, zoologically speaking, the reality is less complex. Orangutans once ranged across a vast part of Asia, from southern China to Indochina, Malaysia, Java, Sumatra and Borneo. Today, the Sumatran orangutan, Pongo abelii, is found only in scattered parts of the north of that island, while the Bornean orangutan,
P. pygmaeus, survives as three subspecies. Sarawak and West Kalimantan are home to
P. p. pygmaeus, with P. p. morio in Sabah and East Kalimantan. Southern Borneo is the last remaining bastion of P. p. wurmbii.