Orangutan News: The Apes That Brave Wildfires

photo from Anne Russon of the Orangutan Kutai Project
photo from Anne Russon of the Orangutan Kutai Project

by Sarah Hewitt for BBC Earth

In 2015, thousands of forest fires burned through the drought-ravaged rainforests of Indonesia and damaged precious habitat for the endangered orangutans living there.

Kutai National Park on Indonesian Borneo was among the areas devastated. Fires ate away trees, toppling them to the ground or leaving them unstable. The smoke from the fires choked out the Sun and enveloped everything in a dull haze.

The local orangutans found that the food they ate was gone and the trees they used to travel around their environment were severely damaged. How many individuals died? Do the survivors still have food to eat? How long before their habitat recovers?

To best answer these questions, researchers need data from before the disaster so they can more accurately compare it to their observations in the aftermath. Having a research site wiped out by fire or hurricane is not exactly lucky, but it has provided scientists with crucial information about the attributes that can enhance survival.

Anne Russon of York University in Ontario, Canada, has spent 28 years studying orangutans.

“East Bornean orangutans are known as being the toughest and most resilient of all the orangutans,” she says. “It’s amazing what they can do to survive some of these things.”

This excerpt from an article* appeared in and is courtesy of BBC earth and can be read in it’s entirety here.

* Article’s original title was edited from original.

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