The conversion of forest to agriculture continues to contribute to the loss and fragmentation of remaining orang-utan habitat. There are still few published estimates of orang-utan densities in these heavily modified agricultural areas to inform range-wide population assessments and conservation strategies. In addition, little is known about what landscape features promote orang-utan habitat use. Using indirect nest count methods, we implemented surveys and estimated population densities of the Northeast Bornean orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus morio) across the continuous logged forest and forest remnants in a recently salvage-logged area and oil palm plantations in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. We then assessed the influence of landscape features and forest structural metrics obtained from LiDAR data on estimates of orang-utan density. Recent salvage logging appeared to have a little short-term effect on orang-utan density (2.35 ind/km 2 ), which remained similar to recovering logged forest nearby (2.32 ind/km 2 ). Orang-utans were also present in remnant forest patches in oil palm plantations, but at significantly lower numbers (0.82 ind/km 2 ) than nearby logged forest and salvage-logged areas. Densities were strongly influenced by variation in canopy height but were not associated with other potential covariates. Our findings suggest that orang-utans currently exist, at least in the short-term, within human-modified landscapes, providing that remnant forest patches remain. We urge greater recognition of the role that these degraded habitats can have in supporting orang-utan populations, and that future range-wide analyses and conservation strategies better incorporate data from human-modified landscapes.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.