But it’s not just its genes which separates the Tapanuli orangutan from the two existing species. The Tapanuli’s skull and jaw bones are less robust than those of their cousins, while their hair is thicker and curlier. Males can be identified by their distinctive moustache and protruding beard, as well as their noticeably flatter cheek pads which are covered in fine blonde hair.
The Tapanuli consumes a number of plant species that have never been seen to be eaten by Borneans and Sumatrans. The Tapanuli orangutan has also demonstrated the ability to use tools, which has previously only been observed in high-density orangutan populations living in lowland swamp forest. The Tapanuli’s high-altitude habitat – living some 900-1,100 metres above sea level – sets them apart in this regard.