June 28, 2016
Dr. Anne Russon of the Orangutan Kutai Project is one of the world’s top orangutan experts, and we are very fortunate to also have her on the board of the Orangutan Conservancy. Her research work on orangutan ranging has been going on for several years in Borneo and OC is pleased to be able to help support this important study. Russon recently sent us an update of the working going on near Kutai National Park and this is a small excerpt of that report. We will be publishing the full report in the near future on the “Our Projects” page of our website.
by Anne Russon
Orangutan Kutai Project, Kutai NP, E. Kalimantan
We are now in our sixth year of orangutan research and conservation work in Kutai National Park (KNP), East Kalimantan Indonesia. KNP is home to the only remaining large wild population of E Bornean orangutans in Indonesia, but it has been seriously threatened by human “development” for decades in the form of settlements, mines, plantations, and two massive forest fires. Only last year, 60,000 ha of KNP’s 190,000 ha were excised to legalize illegal settlements inside its boundaries.
The research site we established in 2010 is along the Sangatta River, the park’s nothern boundary. It overlaps Mentoko, the site of Rodman’s orangutan research in 1970-71 – the first wild orangutan research in Indonesia – so it offers an exceptional opportunity to compare KNP orangutans’ behavior now, when this forest is recovering from serious damage, and 1970-71, when it was near pristine.
To assess how well KNP’s orangutans are coping, our studies have focused on basic functional behavior (feeding, diet, travel, activity budgets) and feeding ecology (plant food species and their distribution, seasonality).
Findings to date
Mentoko area forest represents habitat recovering from damage. Recovering damaged habitat is important to conservation in supporting wildlife, since little pristine habitat remains. To assess how well Mentoko area orangutans are faring in recovering habitat, we compared our findings for 2010-12 (12-15 yrs natural regeneration from 1997-98 severe drought/fire damage) with those for near-pristine conditions (1970s) and 0-4 years regeneration from 1982-83 severe drought/fire damage (1983-87). Mentoko area forest was in better condition in 2010-12 than 1983-87, but different from near-pristine. Resident orangutans’ activity patterns had recovered to near-pristine values, after diverging from them early after damage. E Bornean orangutans have been recognized for their great resilience and exceptional diet flexibility is probably an important contributor; it was probably a key contributor to their surviving these disastrous droughts and fires.
A second research theme has been identifying Mentoko orangutans’ travel routes, as a first step in understanding what they know about where resources are located, when they are are available, and how to navigate to them. Continue reading »
posted by: Tom