Orangutan Breeding and Reproduction
Orangutan males are ready to mate when they are approximately 15 years of age. For girls it is about 12 years of age. For these apes, they live along instead of in groups. When it is time for mating though the males and females find each other through a variety of calls as well as the scents that their bodies offer from various glands.
The males also make what are called long calls followed by bellows. They can be heard for a very long distance. They are often used to call in females that are mature and ready for mating. These calls can go on for hours and hours when a mature male is determined to find a female that he can mate with. He will even pass up eating in order to continue his calls.
As a male gets older he will grow larger flaps on his cheeks. These flaps are a physical attraction for the females. This is one of the reasons why it is the older male orangutans that generally get to engage in mating with the mature females. Generally these older males are also strong enough to fight off the younger ones that do want to challenge their territory.
Males can be extremely aggressive when it comes to mating. They will force females to mate if they won’t do so willingly. If the female is strong enough she may be able to get away from the male. However, usually she won’t be strong enough and has to endure the process whether she is interested or not. If the mating is consensual then the pair may spend several days together interacting and mating before they go their separate ways again.
After mating takes place, it takes from 8 ½ to 9 months for the baby to be born. There is almost always one baby born. There are few known cases of twins being born in captivity so it is assumed that this is not common in the wild. A newborn is about 3 1/2 pounds.
The females take very good care of their offspring. It is common for the young to stay with their mothers for about the first 7 years of life. Most of the information we have about social behavior of orangutans in the wild is based on these types of interactions. For the first couple of years of life the babies ride on the backs of their mothers. Once they are old enough to consume fruits they will follow her through the forest.
The childhood of the orangutan is the longest of all apes. It is also one of the longest of all animals out there. As a child becomes old enough to leave the mother, he or she will start to feed further and further away. Then one day the two will simply part ways and then she will be willing to mate again.
Should a mother orangutan lose her baby early on, she will be ready to mate much sooner. There are reports of mature males trying to kill the offspring in an effort to get the female to reproduce with him. However, these females can be very defensive when it comes to protecting their young.
Due to the closely related genetic make up of the two species of orangutans, it is possible for them to breed with each other. This sometimes happens in captivity but doesn’t in the wild due to the separation of them geographically. The offspring that are part of the two species seem to do very well.