Orang-utan Paternity/Relatedness Project


Institutions: Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) & HUTAN

Status: Completed

 In 2000, Benoît Goossens started a Darwin Initiative Project on conserving the orang-utan in Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. The goal was to utilise non-invasively collected samples from wild orang-utans to investigate the genetic consequences of recent demographic changes brought about by human pressure, habitat disturbance, population fragmentation and the high density of orang-utans. The results of the study showed that adult females were indeed more related to one another than were adult males (Goossens et al., 2005)

After 18 years, HUTAN and DGFC decided to re-assess the parentage and relatedness of the orang-utans at the KOCP study site. Although the orang-utans in the study site are habituated, and many of them have been followed since before the Darwin Initiative Project, it is practically impossible to keep track of all individuals. This is especially true for animals that leave the study site at a young age, and precise identification characteristics have not been fully established. With the habitat reduction and anthropogenic pressure in the area, more males are roaming the intensive study site than before. This project was developed further by Felicity Oram (KOCP), Milena Salgado Lynn and Nuralwanie Maruji.

Some of the research questions included:

  1. Are the new individuals found at the study site the same as those who left it while being adolescents?
  2. Are the new coming males related to the existing females?
  3. How are the males in the study site related to each other?
  4. Are the new flanged males found at the site the same unflanged males from the previous study?
  5. Are males that have been long-time residents of the study site more successfully parenting offspring than newcomers?
  6. What are the current and future dispersal patterns that could result in increased inbreeding and maintenance of a genetically viable population?

 The results of this study provided information on the dispersal patterns of the orang-utans of the Kinabatangan Sanctuary and the behaviour of male orang-utans. The project’s outcomes were used to form recommendations for the management of the species in the Kinabatangan Sanctuary.

Orang-utan©Rudi Delvau