Skip to main content Accessibility help

The roles of traditional knowledge systems in orang-utan Pongo spp. and forest conservation: a case study of Danau Sentarum, West Kalimantan, Indonesia

  • Elizabeth L. Yuliani (a1), Hasantoha Adnan (a1), Ramadhani Achdiawan (a1), Denny Bakara (a2), Valentinus Heri (a2), Jim Sammy (a2), M. Agus Salim (a1) and Terry Sunderland (a1)...


The orang-utan Pongo spp. is protected by national and international legislation, yet populations continue to decline. Many reports implicate local people in the poaching and illegal trade in orang-utans, yet community participation has been promoted as an alternative conservation strategy. To explore how community-based orang-utan conservation could be developed, we conducted a study to understand informal institutions, particularly local people's perceptions, traditional beliefs, taboos, norms and knowledge, related to orang-utan conservation within and around the wetlands of Danau Sentarum. The majority of Dayak communities interviewed practised traditional taboos, which supported the protection of orang-utans and their habitat. Statistical analysis using generalized linear modelling indicated that more orang-utan nests were found in areas with both good habitat condition and strong informal institutions. Despite applying traditional systems that are similar to conservation, local people have negative perceptions about the term ‘conservation’. We describe the underlying causes of these negative perceptions and highlight their implications for conservation programmes and policies. We conclude that conservation of orang-utans and other species should not focus on single species but on maintaining social and natural capital, cultural diversity and ecological functions at various institutional levels and across geographical scales.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      The roles of traditional knowledge systems in orang-utan Pongo spp. and forest conservation: a case study of Danau Sentarum, West Kalimantan, Indonesia
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      The roles of traditional knowledge systems in orang-utan Pongo spp. and forest conservation: a case study of Danau Sentarum, West Kalimantan, Indonesia
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      The roles of traditional knowledge systems in orang-utan Pongo spp. and forest conservation: a case study of Danau Sentarum, West Kalimantan, Indonesia
      Available formats


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

(Corresponding author) E-mail


Hide All

Also at: Radboud University of Nijmegen, Huygens Building, Heyendaalseweg 135, 6525AJ Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Also at: College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia



Hide All
Alcorn, J.B. (1995) Economic botany, conservation, and development: what's the connection? Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 82, 3446.
Ancrenaz, M., Gumal, M., Marshall, A.J., Meijaard, E., Wich, S.A. & Husson, S. (2016) Pongo pygmaeus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T17975A17966347. Http:// [accessed 22 August 2016].
Antara Kaltim (2012) Pembantai Orangutan Divonis Delapan Bulan Penjara (Orangutan slaughterer sentenced to eight months in prison). Http:// [accessed 22 August 2016].
Atkinson, R. (1998) The Life Story Interview. Qualitative Research Methods Series 44. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, USA.
Baer, A. (1989) Maintaining biocultural diversity. Conservation Biology, 3, 9798.
Bennett, N.J. & Roth, R. (eds) (2015) The Conservation Social Sciences: What?, How? and Why? Canadian Wildlife Federation and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Berkes, F., Colding, J. & Folke, C. (2000) Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. Ecological Applications, 10, 12511262.
Berkes, F. (2007) Community-based conservation in a globalized world. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104, 1518815193.
Caldecott, J. (2005) Lessons learned and the path ahead. In World Atlas of Great Apes and Their Conservation (eds. Caldecott, J. & Miles, L.), pp. 276285. UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK.
Colding, J. & Folke, C. (2001) Social taboos: “invisible” systems of local resource management and biological conservation. Ecological Applications, 11, 584600.
Eilenberg, M. & Wadley, R.L. (2009) Borderland livelihood strategies: the socio-economic significance of ethnicity in cross-border labour migration, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 50, 5873.
Etiendem, D.N., Hens, L. & Pereboom, Z. (2011) Traditional knowledge systems and the conservation of Cross River gorillas: a case study of Bechati, Fossimondi, Besali, Cameroon. Ecology and Society, 16(3), 22. Http://
Gadgil, M., Berkes, F. & Folke, C. (1993) Indigenous knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Ambio, 22, 151156.
Gavin, M.C., McCarter, J., Mead, A., Berkes, F., Stepp, J.R., Peterson, D. & Tang, R. (2015) Defining biocultural approaches to conservation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 30, 140145.
Gayle, D. (2012) Orangutan ‘killers’ on trial over slaughtering primates for pest control at palm oil plantation. Http:// [accessed 22 August 2016].
Giesen, W. (1987) Danau Sentarum Wildlife Reserve: Inventory, Ecology and Management Guidelines. WWF & Directorate of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, Bogor, Indonesia.
Giesen, W. & Aglionby, J. (2000) Introduction to Danau Sentarum National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Borneo Research Bulletin, 31, 528.
Hansen, M.C., Potapov, P.V., Moore, R., Hancher, M., Turubanova, S.A., Tyukavina, A. et al. (2013) High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change. Science, 342, 850853. Data available online from
Heri, V., Yuliani, E.L. & Indriatmoko, Y. (2010) Interacting threats and challenges in protecting Danau Sentarum. Borneo Research Bulletin, 41, 74100.
Indriatmoko, Y. (2010) Rapid human population growth and its impacts on Danau Sentarum. Borneo Research Bulletin, 41, 101108.
Kottelat, M. & Widjanarti, E. (2005) The fishes of Danau Sentarum National Park and the Kapuas Lakes area, Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement, 13, 139173.
Luo, Y., Liu, J. & Zhang, D. (2009) Role of traditional beliefs of Baima Tibetans in biodiversity conservation in China. Forest Ecology and Management, 257, 19952001.
Maffi, L. (ed.) (2001) On Biocultural Diversity. Linking Language, Knowledge and the Environment. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, USA.
Margono, B.A., Potapov, P.V., Turubanova, S., Stolle, F. & Hansen, M.C. (2014) Primary forest cover loss in Indonesia over 2000–2012. Nature Climate Change, 4, 730735.
Mathewson, P.D., Spehar, S.N., Meijaard, E., Nardiyono, Purnomo, Sasmirul, A. et al. (2008) Evaluating orangutan census techniques using nest decay rates: implications for population estimates. Ecological Applications, 18, 208221.
Meijaard, E. & Jeanes, K. (2000) Danau Sentarum's wildlife, part 1: biodiversity value and global importance. Borneo Research Bulletin, 31, 150229.
Merriam-Webster (2004) Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh 11th edition. Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, USA.
Nijman, V. (2005) Hanging in the Balance: An Assessment of Trade in Orang-utans and Gibbons on Kalimantan, Indonesia. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
Nyhus, P.J., Sumianto, & Tilson, R. (2003) Wildlife knowledge among migrants in southern Sumatra, Indonesia: implications for conservation. Environmental Conservation, 30, 192199.
Parotta, J.A. (2012) The importance of traditional knowledge for sustainable management of forests and agro-forest resources under changing climate conditions. Paper presented at IUFRO-FORNESSA Regional Congress, Nairobi, Kenya, 29 June 2012.
Pretty, J.N. (1995) Participatory learning for sustainable agriculture. World Development, 23, 12471263.
Rijksen, H.D. & Meijaard, E. (1999) Our Vanishing Relative: The Status of Wild Orang-utans at the Close of the Twentieth Century. Tropenbos Publications, Wageningen, Netherlands, and Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands.
Riley, E.P. (2010) The importance of human–macaque folklore for conservation in Lore Lindu National Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia. Oryx, 44, 235240.
Robbins, P. (1998) Nomadization in Rajasthan, India: migration, institutions, and economy. Human Ecology, 26, 87112.
Robertson, J.M.Y. & van Schaik, C.P. (2001) Causal factors underlying the dramatic decline of the Sumatran orang-utan. Oryx, 35, 2638.
Russon, A.E., Erman, A. & Dennis, R. (2001) The population and distribution of orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) in and around the Danau Sentarum Wildlife Reserve, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Biological Conservation, 97, 2128.
Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2000) Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 5467.
Singleton, I. & van Schaik, C.P. (2001) Orangutan home range size and its determinants in a Sumatran swamp forest. International Journal of Primatology, 22, 877911.
Singleton, I., Wich, S.A. & Griffiths, M. (2008) Pongo abelii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T39780A10266609. Http:// [accessed 18 December 2015].
Singleton, I., Wich, S., Husson, S., Stephens, S., Atmoko, S.U., Leighton, M. et al. (eds) (2004) Orangutan Population and Habitat Viability Assessment: Final Report. IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Apple Valley, USA.
Stacey, N.E., Karam, J., Meekan, M.G., Pickering, S. & Ninef, J. (2012) Prospects for whale shark conservation in eastern Indonesia through Bajo traditional ecological knowledge and community-based monitoring. Conservation & Society, 10, 6375.
Sugardjito, J. & van Schaik, C.P. (1991) Orangutans: current population status, threats and conservation measures. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Conservation of the Great Apes in the New World Order of the Environment, pp. 150160. Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Tourism, Post and Telecommunications, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Tribun Kaltim (2011) Puluhan orangutan dibantai di Kutai Kartanegara (Tens of orangutans were slaughtered in Kutai Kartanegara). Tribun Kaltim News, 26 September 2011.
Uyeda, L.T., Iskandar, E., Purbatrapsila, A., Pamungkas, J., Wirsing, A. & Kyes, R.C. (2016) The role of traditional beliefs in conservation of herpetofauna in Banten, Indonesia. Oryx, 50, 296301.
van Balen, S. & Dennis, R.H. (2000) Birds of Danau Sentarum. Borneo Research Bulletin, 31, 336358.
Wadley, R.L. & Colfer, C.J.P. (2004) Sacred forest, hunting, and conservation in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Human Ecology, 32, 313338.
Wich, S.A., Meijaard, E., Marshall, A.J., Husson, S., Ancrenaz, M., Lacy, R.C. et al. (2008) Distribution and conservation status of the orang-utan (Pongo spp.) on Borneo and Sumatra: how many Remain? Oryx, 42, 329339.
Yuliani, E.L. & Erman, A. (2005) Present trends of resource use in Danau Sentarum National Park. Paper presented at the Heart of Borneo Conference, Leiden, April 2005.
Yuliani, E.L., Indriatmoko, Y., Salim, M.A., Farid, I.Z., Muhajir, M., Prasetyo, L.B. & Heri, V. (2010) Biofuel policies and their impacts on local people and biodiversity: a case study in Danau Sentarum. Borneo Research Bulletin, 41, 109144.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed