The objective of our primate research is the conservation, monitoring and protection of primate species and their habitats in Borneo. We aim to gain a better understanding of primate behavioural ecology in tropical peat-swamp forest, to compare this with populations in different habitats and to see how primates cope with disturbance of their forest habitat.
Using established methods which allow comparison between species, we study their feeding, social behaviour, communication (calls and singing), home ranges, population density and trends, and habitat requirements. We assess the impacts of human activities and conservation actions. Changes in behaviour, diet or ranging can be early-warning indicators of shifts in primate population density. By understanding their behaviour, we can detect changes and implement effective conservation strategies.
Southern Bornean orangutan
Our flagship Orangutan Research Project has been ongoing since 2003 when BNF Co-Director, Dr Helen Morrogh-Bernard, first started to habituate wild orangutans in the Sebangau National Park and collect data on their behaviour and ecology. We have followed over 100 different individuals, and conducted over 25,000 focal-animal follow hours, making this one of the most extensive studies of orangutan in their natural environment. We have discovered that orangutans can adapt to changes in forest condition provided that large feeding trees remain, and that orangutans in peat-swamp forest behave quite differently to those in dryland dipterocarp forests. We have found evidence using genetic data that females are philopatric, staying close to where they were born, whereas males disperse far away. And, excitingly, we made the very first discovery of a fur-rubbing behaviour for self-medication; a behaviour that has only ever been observed in Sebangau National Park.
Bornean white-bearded gibbon
Established in 2005 by BNF Co-Director, Dr Susan Cheyne, our Gibbon Research Project is one of very few long-term studies of these primates in the world. We have studied seven wild gibbon groups in the Sebangau National Park, and continue to focus on three of them. Gibbons travel quickly through the forest canopy and are difficult to habituate. Despite these challenges, we have collected extensive data monitoring population size and distribution, social behaviour and diet. We have identified the effects of changing climatic conditions and forest fire smoke on singing behaviour, and our population and habitat surveys in 16 sites across Kalimantan have established the key factors influencing gibbon population density. We compare gibbon behaviour, diet and nutrient intake with that of sympatric orangutans and red langur monkeys, and assess the long-term impacts of disturbance.
Red langur monkey
Our Red Langur Research Project was established by David Ehlers Smith in 2009 while studying for his PhD at Oxford Brookes University (UK). The red langur is endemic to Borneo, but is relatively understudied. Ours is one of the first, long-term projects to investigate the population status and behavioural ecology of red langurs in peat-swamp forest. We conducted the first ever population density surveys in Sebangau National Park, with results indicating the forest is home to a large and important red langur population. Studying their social behaviour, diet and ranging will allow us to identify conservation priorities for the species which is coming under increasing pressure from habitat loss and degradation.
We are running the research