The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Shared space in a sacred forest: Habitat use by humans and Javan gibbons (Hylobates moloch)


1Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2Anthropology, The University of Texas at San Antonio

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Shared use of space between humans and non-human primates can be a source of conflict to both species and can have important conservation implications. In the sacred forest Cagar Alam Leuweung Sancang in West Java, Indonesia, humans enter forest inhabited by Javan gibbons (Hylobates moloch) for spiritual meditation and concentrate their activities to sacred areas, where gibbons also range. In this study, we use a combination of ethnographic observation and GIS analysis to explore the use of space by both humans and gibbons to determine areas of potential space competition. Data were collected August 2010-June 2011. We collected GPS locations and behavioral data on both the humans (6,652 hours) and the gibbons (1,253 hours) in the forest using 10 minute instantaneous scan sampling.

Preliminary results indicate humans preferentially gather in certain areas of the forest (n=39917 df=7, f=973.52, p<0.0001), with the most people gathering at the Cikajayaan waterfall, the most sacred spot in the forest (mean=4.195, sd=3.493). Two gibbon groups’ home ranges encompassed most of the sacred areas. Group B was less likely to be present as the number of people present increased (n=23780, df=1, χ2=288.082, p<0.00001), but Group C’s presence was not affected by number of people (n=18873, df=1, χ2=1.589, p=0.2075). Thus some gibbons in the forest avoid using certain areas when humans are present. Understanding the effect of shared space on wildlife is necessary for informing conservation policy in human-visited forests because reduced or modified use of space due to human occupancy may be costly to the wildlife.

This study was funded by the Fulbright Foundation, Primate Conservation Inc., and the International Primatological Society.

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