Since 1994, Dr. Cheryl Knott has been leading scientific research on the orangutan population in Gunung Palung National Park, one of the longest running studies of wild orangutans in existence. Our research program is conducted in collaboration with Universitas Nasional (UNAS) and Boston University, with support and permission from the Gunung Palung National Park Office (BTN).
Scientific research plays a critical role in the conservation of Gunung Palung’s orangutans because it is essential to monitor the population’s size, health, and habitat use in order to a) understand what conservation approaches will be most useful and b) assess the impact of these conservation actions. Our research program using cutting edge scientific techniques to investigate orangutan reproduction, behavior, social organization and physiology within an ecological context. Detailed behavioral data are collected in addition to urine samples from which hormones can be measured. All orangutan foods are collected and processed to analyze the caloric and nutrient composition of the orangutan diet. The project is also investigating broader issues related to great ape and human evolution. The project has relevance for understanding the limits on the reproductive potential of orangutan populations and is important for conserving this endangered species.
The Cabang Panti research site in Gunung Palung National Park is one of just a handful of long-term research sites for orangutan biology and behavior. We monitor a study population of over 80 individuals living in this rich rainforest habitat. Because the continued survival of the approximately 2,500 orangutans living within the National Park depends on the conservation of this habitat, Cabang Panti is an important site for both international orangutan research and rainforest conservation. In fact, the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program/Yayasan Palung (GPOCP/YP) grew out of the original Gunung Palung Orangutan Project, with the goal of building support for orangutan conservation with local officials and communities around the park.