Back in the field at the end of this month! Sharan was in Malaysia helping the establishment of a wildlife corridor earlier in October. This time, Claire is leaving for Sumatra to join a veterinary science program, with Orangutan Health Project (OHP), that researches the special behavior and ecological conditions necessary to maintain health in wild orangutans, using parasitic infections as a measure of this health.
“Why those orangutans lucky enough to have lived their entire lives in the wild are healthier than those who have spent their lives in captivity or have been rehabilitated and reintroduced to the rainforest?”✶. In a constantly disrupted environment due to climate change and habitat loss, orangutans face increased contact with humans (meaning that pathogens are moving between orangutans and humans at a faster pace than ever before). Then, many of us want to know if and how they are able to cope if they are learning new treatments on their own.
Wanting to satisfy our curiosity, help the research and see how it is conducted on site are few of the many reasons why we’re joining OHP in the northern part of the Sumatran Leuser ecosystem, Gunung Leuser National Park –a World Heritage Site threatened by forest destruction to clear land for palm oil plantations.
OHP’s primary focus is about “investigating and understanding how wild orangutans combat parasitic infections. Parasitic infections affect all aspects of health from reproduction to behavior, and ultimately to survival. Understanding preventive and curative methods used by wild orangutans is critical to the monitoring and protection of health in wild orangutan populations, which are universally threatened with extinction”✶. Highlighting the medicinal and healing properties of the forest pharmacopeia is also important to demonstrate the need to preserve the forest –not only for the orangutans but also for the local population and the global human population as the use and consumption of these plants is not limited to orangutans. The research may also shed light on the human-primate relationship –most importantly, the health risks associated with coexistence.
This 16 years long project (to date) is led by Dr. Ivona Foitova with the collaboration of local scientists and researchers from Gadjah Mada University’s Faculty of Veterinary Sciences.
While over there, we are aiming to do some live blogging and videos (Wi-Fi permitting) about our work, the project, the people. So watch our Facebook page! And if you have any question just let us know, we’ll be happy to answer if and when we can.
📰 | Read more about our time over there and about the issue of great apes tourism in the area: The Red Apes of Bukit —How Ethical is Orangutan Tourism?
If you are planning to go and visit wild or semi wild orangutans anywhere they remain, please take the time to check and follow our Great Apes Rules. Help protecting them where they were meant to live and thrive. Thanks!
✶ 2016 Orangutan Health Expedition Briefing (Contact OHP directly if you want this clear and nicely written briefing about their research work and volunteer expedition).
Foitová, Ivona; Huffman, Michael. A; Wisnu, Nurcahyo; Olšanský, Milan. 2009. Parasites and Their Impacts on Orangutan Health. in Orangutans: Geographic Variation in Behavioral Ecology and Conservation. Oxford University Press.
Labes, E; Hegglin, D; Grimm, F; Nurcahyo, W; Harrison, M E; Bastian, M L; Deplazes, P. 2010. Intestinal Parasites of Endangered Orangutans (Pongo Pygmaeus) in Central and East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia.
Which, Serge, S. Suci Utami Atmoko, Tatang Mitra Setia, and Carel P. van Schaik, eds. 2009. Orangutans: Geographic Variation in Behavioral Ecology and Conservation. Oxford University Press.
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