Tue. Apr 20th, 2021

Over the past two decades, orangutan researcher Marc Ancrenaz watched as a tidal wave of oil palm has engulfed his once-forested research sites in northern Borneo. When he would find an orangutan in a patch of forest surrounded by planted palms, he said he figured the animal would soon disappear. But as the months and years rolled on, some of those orangutans stayed where they were, Ancrenaz said. Females turned up with babies clinging to their bellies, and he would occasionally spot males swaggering on the ground between the palms. “Year after year, they were still there,” he said. A male orangutan in Indonesian Borneo. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay. Ancrenaz, a biologist and director of the conservation organization HUTAN, works along the Kinabatangan River in northeastern Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. In few places in Southeast Asia is the dominance of oil palm more apparent than in the Kinabatangan region, and it’s had a withering effect on the forests — and orangutan habitat. “What is really surprising to us is that even in this super-degraded landscape where the forest is nearly gone, we still find orangutan in the plantations,” Ancrenaz said. Their continued presence suggested that Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) were adapting to this changing landscape. But it wasn’t clear whether this was a local anomaly or something more common throughout the orangutan’s range. At first, Ancrenaz said he suspected it might be something unique about the Kinabatangan. Many people living nearby practice Islam and…This article was originally published on Mongabay
Sourced from Conservation news