The Sumatran orang-utan (Pongo abelii) reference genome was first published in 2011, in conjunction with ten re-sequenced genomes from unrelated wild-caught individuals. Together, these published data have been utilized in almost all great ape genomic studies, plus in much broader comparative genomic research. Here, we report that the original sequencing Consortium inadvertently switched nine of the ten samples and/or resulting re-sequenced genomes, erroneously attributing eight of these to the wrong source individuals. Among them is a genome from the recently identified Tapanuli (P. tapanuliensis) species: thus, this genome was sequenced and published a full six years prior to the species’ description. Sex was wrongly assigned to five known individuals; the numbers in one sample identifier were swapped; and the identifier for another sample most closely resembles that of a sample from another individual entirely. These errors have been reproduced in countless subsequent manuscripts, with noted implications for studies reliant on data from known individuals.