Tabin Research Update

The plight of the Orangutan is currently high priority worldwide and is at the centre of conservation efforts which are being made to stop deforestation and ease its effects on global worming. Top ecologists predict that the orangutan will be extinct in the wild within 10 - 12 years if drastic measures are not taken now to save this great ape and its habitat.

The Orangutan Appeal UK has been well aware of the growing threat to this endangered ape and has been undertaking pioneering research to ensure the survival of many orphaned orangutans in Borneo.

Over the last 3 years the charity has been working in partnership with the Sabah Wildlife Department to conduct groundbreaking and vital post release monitoring research of orangutans. This ongoing project specifically studies the behaviour of orangutans that have been through the rehabilitation programme at the Sepilok Centre and have been released into rainforest reserves.

This type of research on rehabilitated orangutans has never been done before. Yet, it is believed to be essential if we are to ensure the long-term survival of these animals. The study aims to gather as much information as possible about the behaviour of the orangutans in order to determine how well adapted they are for coping with life on their own in the forest. Observations record; feeding, foraging and nesting behaviours; substrate use; height in the canopy; and tree species utilised. This data can then be compared to observations made of wild orangutans. Any deficiencies in their behaviour need to be identified so that the rehabilitation protocol can be modified and adapted to best suit their needs. This is crucial if centres like Sepilok are to ensure that orangutans once released are behaviourally adept to surviving without assistance, and therefore resulting in the programme being a success.

The initial phase of the project began in 2004, during which time a group of orangutans were followed in the Kabili - Sepilok Reserve. The results provided some highly important facts which spurred the charity onto expanding the study; and in 2006 the UK Appeal set about funding and building a base camp and research station in the Tabin Forest reserve. Both the Sabah Wildlife Department, and Sepilok welcomed this second stage of the research, and the ongoing partnership with the charity.

In September 2006 the charities team of researchers along with four very special orangutans were helicoptered into camp! Here they are being followed and their progress closely monitored on a daily basis. The data collected so far from this second stage of the research is currently being analysed by staff at Roehampton University, Surrey, England. The results are eagerly awaited and will play a major role in furthering our understanding of orangutan behaviour and the rehabilitation process. This is a very exciting time for the Orangutan Appeal and the charity will follow these young orangutans every step of their way back to freedom.