Habitat loss and hunting are major threats to the long-term survival of the viable orangutan population in Batang Toru. East Batang Toru Forest Block (EBTFB) is the most threatened area due to low forest cover and high encroachment. Based on a preliminary survey in 2008, Hopong forest which is located in EBTFB, had the highest orangutan density (0.7 ind/km2). However illegal logging and hunting of protected species were occuring in this unprotected forest. Since this location has been gazetted as unprotected forest from the first survey until this study was conducted, it is important to assess orangutans population trends. This study aims to provide an updated density of orangutan in Hopong forest. The study included the location of the original survey but covered a wider overall area. The line transect method was used to record orangutan nests, ficus and trees bearing fruits. A quadrat method was used to record vegetation. The encounter rate of orangutan declined from 0.7 ind/km2 to 0.4 ind/km2 between 2008 and 2015. Forest cover has also changed in the seven years between surveys and this has influenced orangutan and orangutan nest encounter rates in Hopong. Since unprotected forest is at more risk in comparison with protected forest, allocation status of the Hopong forest is critical to reduce the threats it faces.
In order to obtain basic data on parasitic infections of Bornean orangutans, Pongo pygmaeus morio (Owen, 1837), in Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia, fecal examinations were conducted. Based on a total of 73 fecal samples from 25 individuals, cysts of Entamoeba coli, Entamoeba spp., and Chilomastix mesnili, cysts and trophozoites of Balantidium coli, and eggs of Trichuris sp. or spp., unknown strongylid(s), Strongyloides fuelleborni, and an unknown oxyurid, plus a rhabditoid larva of Strongyloides sp., were found. Mature and immature worms of Pongobius hugoti Baruš et al., 2007 and Pongobius foitovae n. sp. (Oxyuridae: Enterobiinae) were recovered from fecal debris and described. Pongobius foitovae is readily distinguished from P. hugoti by having a much longer esophageal corpus, a longer and distally hooked spicule in males, and a more posteriorly positioned vulva in female. Presence of plural species of non- Enterobius pinworms is a remarkable feature of the orangutan-pinworm relationship, which may reflect speciation process of the orangutans, host switching, and coevolution by pinworms.
The orangutan is the world's largest arboreal mammal, and images of the red ape moving through the tropical forest canopy symbolise its typical arboreal behaviour. Records of terrestrial behaviour are scarce and often associated with habitat disturbance. We conducted a large-scale species-level analysis of ground-based camera-trapping data to evaluate the extent to which Bornean orangutans Pongo pygmaeus come down from the trees to travel terrestrially, and whether they are indeed forced to the ground primarily by anthropogenic forest disturbances. Although the degree of forest disturbance and canopy gap size influenced terrestriality, orangutans were recorded on the ground as frequently in heavily degraded habitats as in primary forests. Furthermore, all age-sex classes were recorded on the ground (flanged males more often). This suggests that terrestrial locomotion is part of the Bornean orangutan's natural behavioural repertoire to a much greater extent than previously thought, and is only modified by habitat disturbance. The capacity of orangutans to come down from the trees may increase their ability to cope with at least smaller-scale forest fragmentation, and to cross moderately open spaces in mosaic landscapes, although the extent of this versatility remains to be investigated.
For many threatened species the rate and drivers of population decline are difficult to assess accurately: species' surveys are typically restricted to small geographic areas, are conducted over short time periods, and employ a wide range of survey protocols. We addressed methodological challenges for assessing change in the abundance of an endangered species. We applied novel methods for integrating field and interview survey data for the critically endangered Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), allowing a deeper understanding of the species' persistence through time. Our analysis revealed that Bornean orangutan populations have declined at a rate of 25% over the last 10 years. Survival rates of the species are lowest in areas with intermediate rainfall, where complex interrelations between soil fertility, agricultural productivity, and human settlement patterns influence persistence. These areas also have highest threats from human-wildlife conflict. Survival rates are further positively associated with forest extent, but are lower in areas where surrounding forest has been recently converted to industrial agriculture. Our study highlights the urgency of determining specific management interventions needed in different locations to counter the trend of decline and its associated drivers.
Conservation benefits from understanding how adaptability and threat interact to determine a taxon's vulnerability. Recognizing how interactions with humans have shaped taxa such as the critically endangered orangutan (Pongo spp.) offers insights into this relationship. Orangutans are viewed as icons of wild nature, and most efforts to prevent their extinction have focused on protecting minimally disturbed habitat, with limited success. We synthesize fossil, archeological, genetic, and behavioral evidence to demonstrate that at least 70,000 years of human influence have shaped orangutan distribution, abundance, and ecology and will likely continue to do so in the future. Our findings indicate that orangutans are vulnerable to hunting but appear flexible in response to some other human activities. This highlights the need for a multifaceted, landscape-level approach to orangutan conservation that leverages sound policy and cooperation among government, private sector, and community stakeholders to prevent hunting, mitigate human-orangutan conflict, and preserve and reconnect remaining natural forests. Broad cooperation can be encouraged through incentives and strategies that focus on the common interests and concerns of different stakeholders. Orangutans provide an illustrative example of how acknowledging the long and pervasive influence of humans can improve strategies to preserve biodiversity in the Anthropocene.
The conservation of charismatic and functionally important large species is becoming increasingly difficult. Anthropogenic pressures continue to squeeze available habitat and force animals into degraded and disturbed areas. Ensuring the long-term survival of these species requires a well-developed understanding of how animals use these new landscapes to inform conservation and habitat restoration efforts. We combined 3 y of highly detailed visual observations of Bornean orangutans with high-resolution airborne remote sensing (Light Detection and Ranging) to understand orangutan movement in disturbed and fragmented forests of Malaysian Borneo. Structural attributes of the upper forest canopy were the dominant determinant of orangutan movement among all age and sex classes, with orangutans more likely to move in directions of increased canopy closure, tall trees, and uniform height, as well as avoiding canopy gaps and moving toward emergent crowns. In contrast, canopy vertical complexity (canopy layering and shape) did not affect movement. Our results suggest that although orangutans do make use of disturbed forest, they select certain canopy attributes within these forests, indicating that not all disturbed or degraded forest is of equal value for the long-term sustainability of orangutan populations. Although the value of disturbed habitats needs to be recognized in conservation plans for wide-ranging, large-bodied species, minimal ecological requirements within these habitats also need to be understood and considered if long-term population viability is to be realized.
Reports of wild great ape fatalities have been very limited, and only two have described wild orangutan deaths. We found a wounded juvenile female Bornean orangutan on 7 October 2006 in the Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia, and observed the individual's behavior for 7 days until her death on 13 October 2006. The 5-6-year-old orangutan, which we had observed since 2004, was wounded in the left brachium, back, and right hand. The individual's behavior changed after injury; the mean nest-nest active time became significantly shorter than before injury (from 12 h 3 min to 9 h 33 min), the mean waking time became significantly later (0552-0629 hours) and the mean bedtime became significantly earlier (from 1747 to 1603 hours). In the activity budget, resting increased significantly from 28.0 to 53.3%. Traveling and feeding decreased significantly from 23.5 to 12.7% and from 45.6 to 32.8%, respectively. The rate of brachiation during traveling and nest making decreased, whereas ground activity increased from 0 to 9%. We observed one vomiting incident and four occurrences of watery diarrhea during the 7 days before the individual died. The results of an autopsy performed by a local veterinarian suggested that the cause of death was septicemia because of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection of the severely contaminated wounds. The morphology and distribution of the wounds suggested they had been incurred during an attack by a large animal with fangs and/or claws. This juvenile female became independent of its mother at ~4-5 years of age, slightly earlier than average. This individual might have been vulnerable to predatory attack because of her small body size (~5 kg at death) and lack of the mother's protection.
We analysed the reproductive parameters of free-ranging female orangutans at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) on Borneo Island, Sabah, Malaysia. Fourteen adult females produced 28 offspring in total between 1967 and 2004. The average censored interbirth interval (IBI) (i.e. offspring was still alive when mother produced a next offspring) was 6 years. This was shorter than censored IBIs reported in the wild but similar to IBIs reported for those in captivity. The nonparametric survival analysis (Kaplan-Meier method) revealed a significantly shorter IBI at SORC compared with wild orangutans in Tanjung Putting. The infant (0-3 years) mortality rate at SORC of 57% was much higher than rates reported both in the wild and captivity. The birth sex-ratio was significantly biassed toward females: 24 of the 27 sex-identified infants were females. The average age at first reproduction was 11.6 years, which is younger than the age in the wild and in captivity. The high infant mortality rate might be caused by human rearing and increased transmission of disease due to frequent proximal encounters with conspecifics around the feeding platforms (FPs). This young age of first reproduction could be because of the uncertainty regarding estimated ages of the female orangutans at SORC. It may also be affected by association with other conspecifics around FPs, which increased the number of encounters of the females with males compared with the number of encounters that would take place in the wild. Provision of FPs, which improves the nutritional condition of the females, caused the shorter IBI. The female-biassed birth sex-ratio can be explained by the Trivers and Willard hypothesis. The female-biassed sex ratio could be caused by the mothers being in poor health, parasite prevalence and/or high social stress (but not food scarcity) due to the frequent encounters with conspecifics around FPs.
Orangutans have a long period of immaturity and the longest inter-birth interval (IBI) of all mammals, which can be explained by their solitary life style, preventing the mother from rearing two offspring simultaneously (solitary life hypothesis) [corrected]. We collected data on mother-offspring dyads living in a primary lowland forest in Danum Valley, East Borneo in an effort to examine the developmental and behavioral patterns of the subspecies Pongo pygmaeus morio. We analyzed developmental changes in mother-offspring distance, contact, and activity budgets in orangutans ranging from 1 to 7 years of age. The results indicated decreased resting and playing with increasing age, whereas feeding, traveling and social play all increased significantly. Mothers' feeding and traveling time were good predictors of their offspring's feeding and traveling activities. Mother-offspring contact lasted longer in resting contexts; contact during traveling was almost non-existent after 4 years of age. Comparisons with previously published data on the Sumatran species Pongo abelli revealed no fundamental differences in these behavioral measures. However, a shorter association time with the mother after behavioral independence is documented for this East Bornean population in comparison to Sumatran populations. These results are best explained by the solitary life hypothesis, in agreement with previous studies. We suggest that environmental constraints in Bornean forests, as well as a lower population density, should be considered when interpreting the differences between Sumatran and Bornean orangutans in both the period of association with mother and the IBI.
The reproductive success of male primates is not always associated with dominance status. For example, even though male orangutans exhibit intra-sexual dimorphism and clear dominance relationships exist among males, previous studies have reported that both morphs are able to sire offspring. The present study aimed to compare the reproductive success of two male morphs, and to determine whether unflanged males sired offspring in a free-ranging population of Bornean orangutans, using 12 microsatellite loci to determine the paternity of eight infants. A single flanged male sired most of the offspring from parous females, and an unflanged male sired a firstborn. This is consistent with our observation that the dominant flanged male showed little interest in nulliparous females, whereas the unflanged males frequently mated with them. This suggests that the dominant flanged male monopolizes the fertilization of parous females and that unflanged males take advantage of any mating opportunities that arise in the absence of the flanged male, even though the conception probability of nulliparous females is relatively low.
The Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island (OUI) Foundation has been conducting behavioral and veterinary research on orangutans as an attempt at ex situ conservation. Since 2010, the Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University has been collaborating with OUI to promote environmental enrichment and infant rearing by biological mothers in addition to the continuous efforts of refining the veterinary management of the endangered species. In 2011, three Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) were released on an island, called BJ Island, adjacent to OUI. This island is approximately 5.6 ha in size, and 635 trees belonging to 102 plant species were identified prior to their release. Behavioral monitoring of the released individuals has been conducted to evaluate their behavioral adaptation to the new environment. Two of the three released orangutans were born in the wild, whereas the youngest individual was born on OUI and expected to learn forest survival strategies from the two older individuals. One of the orangutans was pregnant at the time of release and subsequently gave birth to two male infants on BJ Island. The behavioral monitoring indicated that these orangutans traveled more and spent more time on trees following their release onto BJ Island. However, resting was longer for two females both on OUI and BJ Island when compared to other populations. The orangutans consumed some natural food resources on BJ Island. The release into a more naturalistic environment may help the orangutans to develop more naturalistic behavioral patterns that resemble their wild counterparts.
Nature-based tourism can generate important revenue to support conservation of biodiversity. However, constant exposure to tourists and subsequent chronic activation of stress responses can produce pathological effects, including impaired cognition, growth, reproduction, and immunity in the same animals we are interested in protecting. Utilizing fecal samples (N = 53) from 2 wild habituated orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio) (in addition to 26 fecal samples from 4 wild unhabituated orangutans) in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, we predicted that i) fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations would be elevated on the day after tourist visitation (indicative of normal stress response to exposure to tourists on the previous day) compared to samples taken before or during tourist visitation in wild, habituated orangutans, and ii) that samples collected from habituated animals would have lower fecal glucocorticoid metabolites than unhabituated animals not used for tourism. Among the habituated animals used for tourism, fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels were significantly elevated in samples collected the day after tourist visitation (indicative of elevated cortisol production on the previous day during tourist visitation). Fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels were also lower in the habituated animals compared to their age-matched unhabituated counterparts. We conclude that the habituated animals used for this singular ecotourism project are not chronically stressed, unlike other species/populations with documented permanent alterations in stress responses. Animal temperament, species, the presence of coping/escape mechanisms, social confounders, and variation in amount of tourism may explain differences among previous experiments. Acute alterations in glucocorticoid measures in wildlife exposed to tourism must be interpreted conservatively. While permanently altered stress responses can be detrimental, preliminary results in these wild habituated orangutans suggest that low levels of predictable disturbance can likely result in low physiological impact on these animals.
Today the majority of wild great ape populations are found outside of the network of protected areas in both Africa and Asia, therefore determining if these populations are able to survive in forests that are exploited for timber or other extractive uses and how this is managed, is paramount for their conservation.
The Sumatran orangutan is currently listed by the IUCN as critically endangered and the Bornean species as endangered. Unless effective conservation measures are enacted quickly, most orangutan populations without adequate protection face a dire future. Two main strategies are being pursued to conserve orangutans: (i) rehabilitation and reintroduction of ex-captive or displaced individuals; and (ii) protection of their forest habitat to abate threats like deforestation and hunting. These strategies are often mirrored in similar programs to save other valued and endangered mega-fauna. Through GIS analysis, collating data from across the literature, and combining this information within a modelling and decision analysis framework, we analysed which strategy or combination of strategies is the most cost-effective at maintaining wild orangutan populations, and under what conditions. We discovered that neither strategy was optimal under all circumstances but was dependent on the relative cost per orangutan, the timescale of management concern, and the rate of deforestation. Reintroduction, which costs twelve times as much per animal as compared to protection of forest, was only a cost-effective strategy at very short timescales. For time scales longer than 10-20 years, forest protection is the more cost-efficient strategy for maintaining wild orangutan populations. Our analyses showed that a third, rarely utilised strategy is intermediate: introducing sustainable logging practices and protection from hunting in timber production forest. Maximum long-term cost-efficiency is achieved by working in conservation forest. However, habitat protection involves addressing complex conservation issues and conflicting needs at the landscape level. We find a potential resolution in that well-managed production forests could achieve intermediate conservation outcomes. This has broad implications for sustaining biodiversity more generally within an economically productive landscape. Insights from this analysis should provide a better framework to prioritize financial investments, and facilitate improved integration between the organizations that implement these strategies.
The Bornean orangutan is critically endangered and monitoring its population is needed to inform effective conservation management. In this paper, we present results of 2014-17 aerial nest surveys of the major orangutan populations in Sabah and compare them with baseline data produced during surveys conducted in 2002-03 using similar methods. Our results show three important points: a) by increasing the survey effort (estimated at 15-25% cover), sparsely scattered orangutan sub-populations not recorded in the previous aerial surveys were located and the accuracy of the nest count estimates is expected to improve; b) large populations in the interior forests of Sabah, occupying sustainably managed logged and unlogged forests, have been stable over 15 years and are of vital importance for the species' conservation; c) fragmented populations located in eastern Sabah, that are surrounded by extensive oil palm plantations, have declined at varying rates.
Great apes are threatened with extinction, but precise information about the distribution and size of most populations is currently lacking. We conducted orangutan nest counts in the Malaysian state of Sabah (North Borneo), using a combination of ground and helicopter surveys, and provided a way to estimate the current distribution and size of the populations living throughout the entire state. We show that the number of nests detected during aerial surveys is directly related to the estimated true animal density and that a helicopter is an efficient tool to provide robust estimates of orangutan numbers. Our results reveal that with a total estimated population size of about 11,000 individuals, Sabah is one of the main strongholds for orangutans in North Borneo. More than 60% of orangutans living in the state occur outside protected areas, in production forests that have been through several rounds of logging extraction and are still exploited for timber. The role of exploited forests clearly merits further investigation for orangutan conservation in Sabah.
Balancing economic development with international commitments to protect biodiversity is a global challenge. Achieving this balance requires an understanding of the possible consequences of alternative future scenarios for a range of stakeholders. We employ an integrated economic and environmental planning approach to evaluate four alternative futures for the mega-diverse island of Borneo. We show what could be achieved if the three national jurisdictions of Borneo coordinate efforts to achieve their public policy targets and allow a partial reallocation of planned land uses. We reveal the potential for Borneo to simultaneously retain ∼50% of its land as forests, protect adequate habitat for the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis), and achieve an opportunity cost saving of over US$43 billion. Such coordination would depend on enhanced information sharing and reforms to land-use planning, which could be supported by the increasingly international nature of economies and conservation efforts.
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.