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Of Pongo, palms and perceptions: a multidisciplinary assessment of Bornean orang-utans Pongo pygmaeus in an oil palm context

  • Marc Ancrenaz (a1), Felicity Oram (a1), Laurentius Ambu (a2), Isabelle Lackman (a1), Eddie Ahmad (a1), Hamisah Elahan (a1), Harjinder Kler (a1), Nicola K. Abram (a1) and Erik Meijaard (a3)...

Abstract

The oil palm industry is blamed for the demise of iconic species such as the orang-utan Pongo pygmaeus in Borneo but production of, and demand for, this commodity continue to expand. Therefore, a better understanding of how the orang-utan is adapting to human-transformed environments is crucial for conserving the species. Results from a combination of repeated ground transects, aerial presence/absence surveys, and interviews of workers in mature plantations of the lower Kinabatangan River floodplain (eastern Sabah) provide an overall picture of the current status of orang-utans in an established agro-industrial oil palm landscape. Our results show that orang-utans disperse into mature plantations, use oil palm trees for nesting, and feed on mature fruits. Most oil palm workers report orang-utans of all age–sex classes within the estates but fail to report any negative effect of the animals on productivity of mature palms ≥5 years. Our surveys also show that orang-utan presence in the mature oil palm landscape is correlated with proximity to natural forest patches. These results suggest that forest patches, even when small, fragmented and degraded, are required to sustain the species in human-transformed landscapes. Homogenous oil palm plantations are incompatible with viable populations of orang-utans. The cessation of further forest conversion to agriculture and the enforcement of better management practices are needed to reduce the threat of oil palm development to orang-utan survival.

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Corresponding author

(Corresponding author) E-mail marc.ancrenaz@yahoo.com

References

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Oryx
  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
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