Monday, April 09, 2012

Studies on Sabah orang-utans contribute to guidelines

KINABATANGAN: Since 1998, local community researchers studying orang-utans in the forest of the Kinabatangan have been using strict protocols to ensure that the primates they are studying are not affected negatively by their presence.

“To study wild orang-utans in their natural environment means we have to follow them but at the same time we do not want to cause them distress by seeing us,” explained Hamisah Elahan, who heads the orang-utan research team for Sabah-based French non-governmental organisation HUTAN — Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (HUTAN — KOCP).

According to Hamisah who hails from the village of Sukau, effort and attention is given to ensure that an orang-utan is first habituated to the presence of the researchers before it is followed to collect behavioural data.

“We follow a wild orang-utan in very small groups of two people and let it see us for a few hours a day and when we are sure that our presence is not causing them any distress, then we begin our data collection regime again in groups of two to follow the orang-utan from dawn to dusk,” said Hamisah.

The studied orang-utan is then followed for a maximum period of ten days per month before the team breaks off following the same primate.

“If we see continuous signs of the orang-utan being upset with our presence after trying to habituate them to us, we will stop following that orang-utan,” added Hamisah who worked her way up to be team leader since joining HUTAN — KOCP in April 1999.

The protocols developed here in Sabah are now part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Best Practices Guidelines for Surveys and Monitoring of Great Apes and also Best Practices for Great Ape Tourism.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Studies on Sabah orang-utans contribute to guidelines

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