The 88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2019)


Orangutan Nesting Behavior in Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia

LAURA A. BRUBAKER-WITTMAN1, ANDREA BLACKBURN1, ANDREA L. DIGIORGIO1, FAYE S. HARWELL1, ERIN E. KANE1, TRI WAHYU SUSANTO2 and CHERYL D. KNOTT1.

1Anthropology, Boston University, 2Biology, National University of Indonesia

March 28, 2019 , CC Ballroom BC Add to calendar

Nesting behavior is unique to the great apes among primates and has wide ranging implications for understanding socioecology and conservation. While much is known about nesting in gorillas, chimpanzees, and some orangutan populations living in disturbed forest and peat swamp, the nesting behavior of orangutans living in primary forest is poorly understood. We studied the nesting behavior of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) in Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, using observations of 4,526 nesting events collected between October 1994 and September 2018, testing hypotheses about nest height. We found a significant effect of age/sex on nest height (F(3)=106.1, p<0.001). Post-hoc comparisons (adjusted α-level= 0.008) showed that flanged males nested significantly lower than all other age/sex classes (p<0.001) while females nested significantly lower than juveniles and unflanged males (p<0.001). Flanged males and females tended to nest lower in the canopy when alone than in the presence of other orangutans (males: F(3)=24.25, p<0.001; females: F(3)=5.83, p=0.001). Our results help demonstrate that across forest types, flanged male orangutans prefer to nest lower in the canopy while all other age- and sex-classes prefer higher canopy positions for nesting. Furthermore, our finding that solitary individuals nest lower than individuals near other orangutans suggests that nesting higher in the canopy may allow individuals to space their nests optimally when in proximity of other orangutans. These results have significant conservation implications, as logging and deforestation fundamentally change the forest structure, disrupting the canopy and making preferred nesting locations unavailable.

National Science Foundation (BCS-1638823, BCS-0936199, 1540360, 9414388); National Geographic Society; US Fish and Wildlife (F15AP00812, F12AP00369, 98210-8-G661); Leakey Foundation; Disney Wildlife Conservation; Wenner-Gren Foundation; Nacey-Maggioncalda Foundation; Conservation, Food and Health