Despite the implications for the development of life-history traits, endocrine-immune trade-offs in apes are not well studied. This is due, in part, to difficulty in sampling wild primates, and lack of methods available for immune measures using samples collected noninvasively. Evidence for androgen-mediated immune trade-offs in orangutans is virtually absent, and very little is known regarding their pattern of adrenal development and production of adrenal androgens. To remedy both of these deficiencies, sera were collected from orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio) (N = 38) at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Sabah, Malaysia, during routine health screenings. Testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S) were assayed, along with two measures of functional innate immunity. DHEA-S concentrations, but not DHEA, increased with age in this sample of 1-18 year old animals. DHEA concentrations were higher in animals with higher levels of serum bacteria killing ability, while DHEA-S and testosterone concentrations were higher in animals with reduced complement protein activity. Patterns of DHEA-S concentration in this sample are consistent with patterns of adrenarche observed in other apes. Results from this study suggest that in addition to testosterone, DHEA and DHEA-S may have potent effects on immunological activity in this species.
We observed the diet and activity of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio) in the primary lowland dipterocarp forests of Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia, during 2005-2007, including two mast fruitings. We collected 1,785 hr of focal data on 26 orangutans. We identified 1,466 samples of their food plants and conducted a fallen fruit census to monitor fruit availability in the study area. Their activity budget was 47.2% feeding, 34.4% resting, and 16.9% traveling. Fruits accounted for the largest part (60.9%) of feeding time, especially during mast fruiting periods (64.0-100%), although the percentages of leaves (22.2%) and bark (12.3%) were higher than those reported for P. abelii and P. pygmaeus wurmbii. Although 119 genera and 160 plant species were consumed by focal animals, only 9 genera accounted for more than 3% of feeding time (total: 67.8% for 9 genera). In particular, the focal orangutans fed intensively on Ficus and Spatholobus during most of the study period, especially in periods of fruit shortage. The percentage of fruit feeding changed markedly from 11.7 to 100% across different months of the year, and was positively correlated with the amount of fallen fruit. When fruit feeding and availability decreased, orangutans fed primarily on leaves of Spatholobus and Ficus, and the bark of Spatholobus and dipterocarp. The percentage of time devoted to feeding during mast fruitings, when the orangutans foraged almost exclusively on fruits, was lower than during seasons when the orangutan diet included leaves and bark as well as fruits. Resting increased as feeding decreased in the late stage of each fruiting season, suggesting that the orangutans adopted an energy-minimizing strategy to survive the periods of fruit shortage by using energy stored during the fruit season.
Orangutans display remarkable developmental changes and sexual differences in facial morphology, such as the flanges or cheek-pads that develop only on the face of dominant adult males. These changes suggest that facial morphology is an important factor in visual communication. However, developmental changes in facial morphology have not been examined in detail. We studied developmental changes in the facial morphology of the Borneo orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) by observing 79 individuals of various ages living in the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Malaysia and in Japanese zoos. We also analyzed photographs of one captive male that were taken over a period of more than 16 years. There were clear morphological changes that occurred with growth, and we identified previously unreported sexual and developmental differences in facial morphology. Light-colored skin around the eyes and mouth is most prominent in animals younger than 3 years, and rapidly decreases in area through the age of approximately 7 years. At the same time, the scattered, erect hairs on the head (infant hair) become thick, dense hairs lying on the head (adult hair) in both sexes. The results suggest that these features are infant signals, and that adult signals may include darkened face color, adult hair, whiskers, and a beard, which begin to develop after the age of approximately 7 years in both sexes. In females, the eyelids remain white even after 10 years, and turn black at around the age of 20; in males, the eyelids turn black before the age of 10. The whiskers and beards of adults are thicker in males than in females, and are fully developed before the age of 10 in males, while they begin to develop in females only after approximately 20 years. White eyelids and undeveloped whiskers and beards may be visual signals that are indicative of young adult females. Our results also show that the facial morphology of the unflanged male is similar to that of the adult female, although it has also been pointed out that unflanged males resemble younger individuals.
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.
Orangutan survival is threatened by habitat loss and illegal killing. Most wild populations will disappear over the next few decades unless threats are abated. Saving orangutans is ultimately in the hands of the governments and people of Indonesia and Malaysia, which need to ensure that habitats of viable orangutan populations are protected from deforestation and well managed to ensure no hunting takes place. Companies working in orangutan habitat also have to play a much bigger role in habitat management. Although the major problems and the direct actions required to solve them-reducing forest loss and hunting-have been known for decades, orangutan populations continue to decline. Orangutan populations in Sumatra and Borneo have declined by between 2,280 and 5,250 orangutans annually over the past 25 years. As the total current population for the two species is some 60,000 animals in an area of about 90,000 km(2) , there is not much time left to make conservation efforts truly effective. Our review discusses what has and has not worked in conservation to guide future conservation efforts.
Six extant species of non-human great apes are currently recognized: Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, eastern and western gorillas, and chimpanzees and bonobos . However, large gaps remain in our knowledge of fine-scale variation in hominoid morphology, behavior, and genetics, and aspects of great ape taxonomy remain in flux. This is particularly true for orangutans (genus: Pongo), the only Asian great apes and phylogenetically our most distant relatives among extant hominids . Designation of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, P. pygmaeus (Linnaeus 1760) and P. abelii (Lesson 1827), as distinct species occurred in 2001 [1, 2]. Here, we show that an isolated population from Batang Toru, at the southernmost range limit of extant Sumatran orangutans south of Lake Toba, is distinct from other northern Sumatran and Bornean populations. By comparing cranio-mandibular and dental characters of an orangutan killed in a human-animal conflict to those of 33 adult male orangutans of a similar developmental stage, we found consistent differences between the Batang Toru individual and other extant Ponginae. Our analyses of 37 orangutan genomes provided a second line of evidence. Model-based approaches revealed that the deepest split in the evolutionary history of extant orangutans occurred ∼3.38 mya between the Batang Toru population and those to the north of Lake Toba, whereas both currently recognized species separated much later, about 674 kya. Our combined analyses support a new classification of orangutans into three extant species. The new species, Pongo tapanuliensis, encompasses the Batang Toru population, of which fewer than 800 individuals survive. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
Unsustainable exploitation of natural resources is increasingly affecting the highly biodiverse tropics [1, 2]. Although rapid developments in remote sensing technology have permitted more precise estimates of land-cover change over large spatial scales [3-5], our knowledge about the effects of these changes on wildlife is much more sparse [6, 7]. Here we use field survey data, predictive density distribution modeling, and remote sensing to investigate the impact of resource use and land-use changes on the density distribution of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Our models indicate that between 1999 and 2015, half of the orangutan population was affected by logging, deforestation, or industrialized plantations. Although land clearance caused the most dramatic rates of decline, it accounted for only a small proportion of the total loss. A much larger number of orangutans were lost in selectively logged and primary forests, where rates of decline were less precipitous, but where far more orangutans are found. This suggests that further drivers, independent of land-use change, contribute to orangutan loss. This finding is consistent with studies reporting hunting as a major cause in orangutan decline [8-10]. Our predictions of orangutan abundance loss across Borneo suggest that the population decreased by more than 100,000 individuals, corroborating recent estimates of decline . Practical solutions to prevent future orangutan decline can only be realized by addressing its complex causes in a holistic manner across political and societal sectors, such as in land-use planning, resource exploitation, infrastructure development, and education, and by increasing long-term sustainability . VIDEO ABSTRACT.
A recent report, published by the Government of Indonesia with support from the Food and Agricultural Organization and Norway's International Climate and Forest Initiative, states that orangutan populations (Pongo spp.) have increased by more than 10% in Indonesia from 2015 to 2017, exceeding the government target of an annual 2% population increase . This assessment is in strong contrast with recent publications that showed that the Bornean orangutan (P. pygmaeus) lost more than 100,000 individuals in the past 16 years  and declined by at least 25% over the past 10 years . Furthermore, recent work has also demonstrated that both Sumatran orangutans (P. abelii) and the recently described Tapanuli orangutan (P. tapanuliensis) lost more than 60% of their key habitats between 1985 and 2007, and ongoing land use changes are expected to result in an 11-27% decline in their populations by 2020 [4,5]. Most scientific data indicate that the survival of these species continues to be seriously threatened by deforestation and killing [4,6,7] and thus all three are Critically Endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.
Designed as a new method to facilitate the reintroduction and post-release monitoring of orangutans and other apes, implanted radio-telemetry (IRT) was developed and first deployed in 2009. Since that time, it has been necessary to collate and review information on its uptake and general efficacy to inform its ongoing development and that of other emerging tracking technologies. We present here technical specifications and the surgical procedure used to implant miniaturized radio transmitters, as well as a formal testing procedure for measuring detectable transmission distances of implanted devices. Feedback from IRT practitioners (veterinarians and field managers) was gathered through questionnaires and is also presented. To date, IRT has been used in at least 250 individual animals (mainly orangutans) from four species of ape in both Asia and Africa. Median surgical and wound healing times were 30 min and 15 days, respectively, with implants needing to be removed on at least 36 separate occasions. Confirmed failures within the first year of operation were 18.1%, while longer distances were reported from positions of higher elevation relative to the focal animal. IRT has been a transformational technology in facilitating the relocation of apes after their release, resulting in much larger amounts of post-release data collection than ever before. It is crucial however, that implant casings are strengthened to prevent the requirement for recapture and removal surgeries, especially for gradually adapting apes. As with all emerging technological solutions, IRT carries with it inherent risk, especially so due to the requirement for subcutaneous implantation. These risks must, however, be balanced with the realities of releasing an animal with no means of relocation, as has historically been, and is still, the case with orangutans and gorillas.
Non-invasive measures of stress are crucial for captive and conservation management programs. The adrenal hormone dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS) has recently been adopted as a stress marker, but there is little investigation of its relationship to glucocorticoids (GC), well-known indicators of stress. This study examined the influence of age, reproductive state and environment on GC and DHEAS levels in orangutans, to test whether the GC/DHEAS ratio can provide an index of stress response in primates. We measured fecal GC (fGC) and fecal DHEAS (fDHEAS) concentrations in 7 captive orangutans from zoological parks in Japan and 22 wild orangutans from Danum Valley Conservation Area, Malaysia. We found that in a stressful condition (transportation), fDHEAS levels increased 2 days after the fGC response, which occurred 1 day after the stressor. One pregnant female had elevated levels of both hormones, and a higher fGC/fDHEAS ratio than baseline. Females in the first year of lactation had fGC levels and the fGC/fDHEAS ratio significantly higher than both baseline and females in the second and subsequent years of lactation. There was no effect of age on fGC levels, but the fGC/fDHEAS ratio was higher in infants than adults and adolescents. fDHEAS concentrations were lower in infants than juveniles, adolescents and adults, a phenomenon known as adrenarche, shared with humans and other great apes. We suggest that changes in DHEAS during orangutan life history are associated with changes in the dynamics of maintaining homeostasis that vary with age and reproductive state. The GC/DHEAS ratio index is useful to evaluate age-related abilities of responding to stressful challenges.
Orangutans (Pongo spp.) are reported to have extremely slow life histories, including the longest average interbirth intervals of all mammals. Such slow life history can be viable only when unavoidable mortality is kept low. Thus, orangutans' survivorship under natural conditions is expected to be extremely high. Previous estimates of orangutan life history were based on captive individuals living under very different circumstances or on small samples from wild populations. Here, we combine birth data from seven field sites, each with demographic data collection for at least 10 years (range 12-43 years) on wild orangutans to better document their life history. Using strict criteria for data inclusion, we calculated infant survival, interbirth intervals and female age at first reproduction, across species, subspecies and islands. We found an average closed interbirth interval of 7.6 years, as well as consistently very high pre-weaning survival for males and females. Female survival of 94% until age at first birth (at around age 15 years) was higher than reported for any other mammal species under natural conditions. Similarly, annual survival among parous females is very high, but longevity remains to be estimated. Current data suggest no major life history differences between Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. The high offspring survival is remarkable, noting that modern human populations seem to have reached the same level of survival only in the 20th century. The orangutans' slow life history illustrates what can be achieved if a hominoid bauplan is exposed to low unavoidable mortality. Their high survival is likely due to their arboreal and non-gregarious lifestyle, and has allowed them to maintain viable populations, despite living in low-productivity habitats. However, their slow life history also implies that orangutans are highly vulnerable to a catastrophic population crash in the face of drastic habitat change.
Diagnosis of active mycobacterial disease in orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) has been impeded by high levels of non-specific intradermal skin test reactivity to mycobacterial antigens. This may be due in part to cross reactivity between antigens, tuberculin concentrations used or other species-specific factors. Antigen 85 (Ag85) complex proteins are major secretory products of actively growing mycobacteria, and measurement of serum Ag85 could provide a method for determining active mycobacterial infections that was not dependent on host immunity. Serum Ag85 was measured by dot-immunobinding assay using monoclonal anti-Ag85, purified Ag85 standard and enhanced chemiluminescence technology in coded serum samples from 14 captive orangutans from a zoo in Colorado, 15 semi-captive orangutans in Malaysia, and 19 free-ranging wild orangutans in Malaysia. Orangutans from Colorado (USA) were culture negative for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and M. avium, although all had laboratory suspicion or evidence of mycobacterial infection; median serum Ag85 was 10 microU/ml (range, <0.25-630 microU/ml). Of the semi-captive orangutans, six were skin test reactive and two were culture positive for M. avium on necropsy. Median serum Ag85 for this group was 1,880 microU/ml (0.75-7,000 microU/ml), significantly higher than that of Colorado zoo or free-ranging Malaysian orangutans. Median serum Ag85 in the latter group was 125 microU/ml (range, 0.75-2,500 microU/ml). These data suggest that suggest that additional studies using more specific reagents and more samples from animals of known status are appropriate.
Medetomidine (0.02-0.06 mg/kg) in combination with zolazepam-tiletamine (0.8-2.3 mg/kg) were evaluated for reversible anesthesia in four species of Southeast Asian primates: Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus), Bornean gibbon (Hylobates muelleri), long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), and pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina). Twenty-three anesthetic procedures of captive-held and free-ranging primates were studied in Sabah, Malaysia. The induction was smooth and rapid. Respiratory and heart rates were stable throughout anesthesia, whereas body temperature and systolic arterial blood pressure decreased significantly. Atipamezole at five times the medetomidine dose effectively reversed anesthesia, with first signs of recovery within 3-27 min.
We examined mitochondrial DNA control region sequences of 73 Kinabatangan orangutans to test the hypothesis that the phylogeographical structure of the Bornean orangutan is influenced by riverine barriers. The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary contains one of the most northern populations of orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) on Borneo and is bisected by the Kinabatangan River, the longest river in Sabah. Orang-utan samples on either side of the river were strongly differentiated with a high Phi(ST) value of 0.404 (P < 0.001). Results also suggest an east-west gradient of genetic diversity and evidence for population expansion along the river, possibly reflecting a postglacial colonization of the Kinabatangan floodplain. We compared our data with previously published sequences of Bornean orangutans in the context of river catchment structure on the island and evaluated the general relevance of rivers as barriers to gene flow in this long-lived, solitary arboreal ape.
Behavioural observations suggest that orang-utans are semi-solitary animals with females being philopatric and males roaming more widely in search of receptive partners, leading to the prediction that females are more closely related than males at any given site. In contrast, our study presents evidence for male and female philopatry in the orang-utan. We examined patterns of relatedness and parentage in a wild orang-utan population in Borneo using noninvasively collected DNA samples from animals observed to defecate, and microsatellite markers to assess dispersal and mating strategies. Surprisingly, resident females were equally as related to other resident females (mean r(xy) = 0.303) as resident males were to other resident males (mean r(xy) = 0.305). Moreover, resident females were more related to each other and to the resident males than they were to nonresident females, and resident males were more related to each other (and resident females) than they were to nonresident males. We assigned genetic mothers to 12 individuals in the population, while sires could be identified for eight. Both flanged males and unflanged males achieved paternity, similar to findings reported for Sumatran orang-utans.
We investigated the genetic structure within and among Bornean orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus) in forest fragments of the Lower Kinabatangan flood plain in Sabah, Malaysia. DNA was extracted from hair and faecal samples for 200 wild individuals collected during boat surveys on the Kinabatangan River. Fourteen microsatellite loci were used to characterize patterns of genetic diversity. We found that genetic diversity was high in the set of samples (mean H(E) = 0.74) and that genetic differentiation was significant between the samples (average F(ST) = 0.04, P < 0.001) with F(ST) values ranging from low (0.01) to moderately large (0.12) values. Pairwise F(ST) values were significantly higher across the Kinabatangan River than between samples from the same river side, thereby confirming the role of the river as a natural barrier to gene flow. The correlation between genetic and geographical distance was tested by means of a series of Mantel tests based on different measures of geographical distance. We used a Bayesian method to estimate immigration rates. The results indicate that migration is unlikely across the river but cannot be completely ruled out because of the limited F(ST) values. Assignment tests confirm the overall picture that gene flow is limited across the river. We found that migration between samples from the same side of the river had a high probability indicating that orang-utans used to move relatively freely between neighbouring areas. This strongly suggests that there is a need to maintain migration between isolated forest fragments. This could be done by restoring forest corridors alongside the river banks and between patches.