Learning about orang-utans without stressing them out!

Jan 10, 12 Learning about orang-utans without stressing them out!

HUTAN – KOCP’s work in Sabah, began in 1998 with the first ever study of wild populations of orang-utans living in previously logged forest (secondary forest).

To do this HUTAN’s founders, primatologist Dr. Isabelle Lackman and wildlife veterinarian Dr. Marc Ancrenaz spent time in the field designing guidelines on how to observe orang-utans without causing them undue stress.

The first step is to get the orang-utan to be “comfortable” with your presences.  And this is done in small groups of two and with short periods of time following the orang-utan and increasing the time spent by a little each day until the orang-utan is “comfortable” with the presence of the Researchers.

We also had a limit of up to 10 days of following a single habituated (meaning not stressed by the researchers) orang-utan.  After 10 days cycle we will stop following the same orang-utan.

The guidelines designed in Kinabatangan are also now part of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) international guidelines for Great Apes.

During the day, the orang-utans habituated are followed from the time they wake up in their nest to the time they make a (usually) new nest for the night.  Which in the tropics means we follow them over a 12 hour dawn to dusk cycle.  During this 12 hour time frame, Researchers have an excel type “Time Budget” data sheet to fill up documenting what the orang-utan does from eating to foraging to playing to resting.

Time Budget Data Sheet for Orang-utan


Click here to see the IUCN’s Great Ape Guidelines:  Best Practice Guidelines for Surveys and Monitoring of Great Ape Populations


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