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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.