The Orangutan


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Technique and Dimensions:

Leather mounted


Ground floor, Room 1 (inv. no. MSNG 110)


Indonesia, Pontianak, 1866

Object Type:



The Orangutan specimen (Pongo pygmaeus) precedes the foundation of the museum. In 1865, Giacomo Doria and his friend the botanist Odoardo Beccari were visiting Borneo to collect specimens. In January 1866, Doria decided to return to Italy due to health reasons and stopped over in Singapore that February. In Singapore, he bought two young female orangutans on a ship from Pontianak, the current capital of the West Kalimanatan province of Indonesia. One of the orangutans lived in Genoa for a while and is the specimen displayed in the case next to the male.
The Bornean Orangutan is classified in the IUCN Red List as a “critically endangered” species; over the last 60 years, its population has decreased by 50%. It has been estimated that, without immediate and drastic intervention, its decline will continue until extinction! Why are Orangutans disappearing? The destruction of their natural habitat, due to the conversion of forests into urban centres and agricultural areas; fires and wild deforestation, due to the ever-increasing demand for timber; poaching, as Orangutans are being hunted both for sale to zoos and for their meat.