Orangutan Views: How to Save Orangutans: High-Calorie Forests

photo by: Gemma Llorensí Torrent/Flickr
photo by: Gemma Llorensí Torrent/Flickr

by Robin Lally – Rutgers

Habitat loss is the greatest threat to endangered orangutans, but conservationists say the key to saving them is to reintroduce them into forests that have enough high-energy food.

“If animals can’t obtain enough energy, reproductive output and population sizes will suffer,” says Erin Vogel, assistant professor of anthropology at Rutgers University.

A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE shows the density of Bornean orangutans is almost two times greater in an Indonesian peat-swamp forest—just 39 miles from similar surroundings where orangutans must survive on thousands of calories less each day for most of the year.

“This study gives us a better understanding of how living in an unpredictable environment can influence the population density of large animals that spend the majority of their time in trees,” adds Vogel.

Orangutans living in the Tuanan Forest, located in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, consumed almost 2,500 more calories each day when the availability of fruit was high and more than 800 calories in times of scarcity—compared to orangutans living in the nearby Sabangau Forest, which has a thicker layer of acidic peat that prevents fewer nutrients from reaching the vegetation from the soil.

“Walking through the forest you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” says Vogel. “The sites look the same, but one of the habitats appears to support a healthier population.”

This excerpt from an article appeared on Futurity.com and can be read in its entirety here.


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