Orangutan Commentary – Call of the Orangutan: Injuries and Their Limitations

Siboy_4605by James Askew for Scientific American

This last month has been extremely stressful for all of us at Sikundur research station in North Sumatra while we’ve been following two of our favorite orangutans, Suci and her 3-year-old infant Siboy. As I mentioned in a previous blog, while I was in Medan for a break the boys sent me a text saying Suci had some injuries on her back, which I assumed she’d received from Brutus, an unflanged male who was following her around trying to engage in copulations the last time we followed them. However, once I got back to camp, it became apparent an orangutan probably didn’t inflict the injuries. It’s more likely they came from air-rifle pellets and they were causing Suci serious discomfort, which was having a knock-on effect on Siboy’s quality of life too.

On my first day back, we headed out at 5:30 a.m. to Suci’s night nest, in the center of the grid, not too far from camp. I knew from the previous day’s data that Brutus was still following the pair, along with an adolescent male, Kundur, so I expected it would be a fairly lively and interesting day. However, while the two males were up and active at 6 a.m. on the dot, Suci stayed in her nest until nearly 9 a.m., which although not unheard of, is generally a sign that the orangutan isn’t feeling well. The reason we all like Suci and Siboy so much is that they’re very well habituated, often coming close to us observers, giving us lots to see and record from their behavior. This also meant that once she finally woke up, I very quickly got a good look at the injuries, which were terrible!

This excerpt from a article appeared in and is courtesy of Scientific American and can be read in its entirety here.

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