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Forest Structure and Support Availability Influence Orangutan Locomotion in Sumatra and Borneo



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    • School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom
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Correspondence to: Kirsten L Manduell, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, United Kingdom. E-mail:


The influence of habitat structure and support availability on support use is an important aspect of understanding locomotor behavior in arboreal primates. We compared habitat structure and support availability in three orangutan study sites—two on Sumatra (Pongo abelii) in the dry-lowland forest of Ketambe and peat swamp forest of Suaq Balimbing, and one on Borneo (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) in the disturbed peat swamp forest of Sabangau—to better understand orangutan habitat use. Our analysis revealed vast differences in tree and liana density between the three sites. Sabangau had a much higher overall tree density, although both Sumatran sites had a higher density of larger trees. The two peat swamp forests were more similar to each other than to Ketambe, particularly with regard to support availability. Ketambe had a wider variety of supports of different sizes and types, and a higher density of larger lianas than the two peat swamps. Orangutans in all three sites did not differ substantially in terms of their preferred supports, although Sumatran orangutans had a strong tendency to use lianas, not observed in Sabangau. Differences in observed frequencies of locomotor behavior suggest the homogeneous structure of Sabangau limits the locomotor repertoire of orangutans, with high frequencies of fewer behaviors, whereas the wider range of supports in Ketambe appears to have facilitated a more varied locomotor repertoire. There were no differences among age-sex classes in the use of arboreal pathways in Suaq Balimbing, where orangutans selected larger trees than were typically available. This was less apparent in Sabangau, where orangutans generally used trees in relation to their environmental abundance, reflecting the homogeneous nature of disturbed peat swamp forest. These results demonstrate that forest architecture has an important influence on orangutan locomotion, which may become increasingly important as the structure of orangutan habitat continues to be altered through human disturbance. Am. J. Primatol. 74:1128-1142, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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