The sound of silence: listening to the villagers to learn about orangutans


  • Kerrie Mengersen

    1. Designed the statistical framework for this study, and Huanhuan Wu, a statistical analyst, work in Mathematical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.
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  • Jessie Wells, a quantitative ecologist and conservationist, works in the Ecology Centre, University of Queensland. Damiyanti Buchori is lead scientist in The Nature Conservancy, Indonesia, where she works with Lenny Christy, a GIS specialist. Yokyok Hadiprakarsa, a spatial modelling expert, works for the Orangutan Conservation Services Program, Indonesia. Anton Nurcahyo and Erik Meijaard worked for TNC at the time of the survey, but have now joined the Borneo Orangutan Society and People and Nature Consulting International, respectively. Erik conceptualised and initiated the interview surveys, while Anton took up the considerable challenge of managing the 18 local NGOs that implemented the surveys.


Orangutans, those shy and gentle primates of Borneo and Sumatra, are iconic of species under threat. Efforts to conserve them have met with little success. But Kerrie Mengersen and her colleagues have brought statistics to bear to provide practical guidance towards saving the creature whose name means “old man of the forests”.