No, orangutans definitely do not make good pets  Here are some of the reasons why:

First, the orangutan pet trade has been partly responsible for the decline of the orangutan species. While illegal throughout the world, this brutal trade brings orangutans into captivity at a high price. Six to eight orangutans die for each orangutan baby sold in a pet store as the infant orangutan’s mother is shot and killed while many babies die due to poor handling and transport to market. In Taiwan during the early 1990’s over 1,000 orangutans were illegally imported into that country because children watched a TV show featuring a young orangutan and demanded them as designer pets.

Second, while orangutans in the USA are captive bred, there are strict permits that do not include pet ownership. US Fish and Wildlife Service regulate who can obtain a permit and it is usually only for zoological, research, and educational institutions. There are some people who own or lease them for commercial purposes (you have seen them on TV, perhaps), but USFWS and the animal rights community make it very difficult for them (and rightfully so as they frequently abuse the animals in the training process which profits only the humans).

Third, because orangutans are so much like humans, they pose similar problems and challenges to anyone who owns them. They are long lived with a long period of dependency on a mother. They can transmit and receive respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases from humans. Improper medical care can result in a high mortality rate during the first year of captivity by pet owners. Additionally, they are particularly strong and are strong willed if they focus on something they want. They can be very destructive as they search for food items or play. As they age, they pose increased difficulty with their human owners who cannot properly keep them in humane conditions. In the USA, many orangutans in private hands wind up in cages, in basements or worse. What type of life is that for an animal such as an orangutan?

It is better to own a domestic dog or cat as a pet. Another alternative is to become a foster parent to one of the many orangutans that we care for in Borneo. Our challenge is finding the funds to feed and care for the hundreds of orphan orangutans that need to return to the forest. Many come to us as the consequence of illegal logging and the secondary pet trade. You can help these unfortunate orphan apes by becoming a foster parent. Our website provides information about this program.