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Are samples derived from orangutans in rescue centres - more information on sampling methods required

Posted by VNijman on 09 Nov 2012 at 13:37 GMT

As the authors rightly indicate it is very significant that these results derive from wild orangutans as opposed to for instance orangutans in zoos, rescue centres or that are kept as pets (although in Indonesia the majority of these are also wild-caught). The latter have been in contact with humans, and possibly domesticated animals or in the case of zoo-animals, exotic animals. The information the authors present in their paper on how they obtained the samples is very minimal, to say the least:

Samples were collected from 353 wild-caught orang-utans in Kutai Kartanegara and Palangka Raya between December 2005 and December 2006

Orangutans were kept singly in a cage for an unspecified quarantine period during which their behaviour was monitored and their health was checked.

Finally the healthy and socially-normal ones were released into the forest and were monitored for some 6 months.

The scale of the operation (catching 353 orangutans, keeping them in quarantine during which time they are kept under observation, releasing them into the forest, and monitoring them for 6 months) is monumental and unprecedented.

It is also perhaps significant to note that two of the largest orang-utan rescue centres in Indonesia, with hundreds of orangutans in their care in 2006, are located in the two regencies where the authors obtained their samples, i.e. Wanariset Samboja (Kutai Kartanegara) and Nyaru Menteng (Palangka Raya). These orangutans originate from various parts of Kalimantan, have different backgrounds (ex-pets, zoo animals, animals rescued from e.g. plantations) and are often housed in social groups. Is it possible that the orangutans used in the study were in fact ones from these rescue centres?

With the previous commentor I agree that it would be good if the authors could provide much more information on how the samples were obtained that were used in this study. While they do so it would be good if the authors included a statement clarifying whether or not their samples were in fact derived from orangutans in the above-mentioned rescue centres.

No competing interests declared.