Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wild orangutans stressed by eco-tourists, but not for long, IU study out of north Borneo finds

16.03.2012
Wild orangutans that have come into contact with eco-tourists over a period of years show an immediate stress response but no signs of chronic stress, unlike other species in which permanent alterations in stress responses have been documented, new research from an Indiana University anthropologist has found.

IU anthropologist Michael P. Muehlenbein can't say yet what makes the wild orangutans of Borneo deal with stress differently than other species in other locations, but an analysis of orangutan stress hormone levels recorded before, during and after the apes interacted in the wild with eco-tourists found evidence of acute elevation of the stress hormone cortisol the day of an interaction, with levels then returning to baseline afterward.

By analyzing fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGM) levels of orangutans in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, Malaysia, the team led by Muehlenbein was looking to, among other things, gather evidence about levels of disturbance on wildlife exposed to eco-tourism, a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that is growing annually. Red Ape Encounters, a community-owned and -operated eco-tourism program in Sabah that assisted with the research, facilitates the only trekking program for wild orangutans in the world.

"Revenue can enhance economic opportunities for the locales involved, and it can support environmental education, protect natural and cultural heritage, and be used to conserve biodiversity," Muehlenbein said. "But rapid, unmonitored development of nature-based tourism can also lead to habitat degradation and negative impacts on the very species we wish to protect. Given the increasing demand of tourists to encounter wild orangutans, it is critical to evaluate any potential physiological effects this and future programs may have on this charismatic and endangered species."

Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio) are considered an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which produces the Red List of Threatened Species.

Eco-tourism guidelines used by Red Ape Encounters include limiting visitation groups to seven people for no more than one hour; excluding sick tourists; maintaining a 10-meter minimum distance; and requiring appropriate behavior. The company hosts about 250 tourists per year, with most of the visitor activity centered on the two wild habituated orangutans used in the study: Jenny, an adult approximately 32 years old, and her 11-year-old son Etin.

To produce the results, researchers collected fecal samples from Jenny and Etin in association with 25 unique tourism visits, along with fecal samples collected from several previously unidentified wild unhabituated orangutans. After developing standardized hormone degradation rates through earlier comparative studies of samples from captive orangutans at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and those from two other wild orangutans in Borneo, the team was able to collect samples within an optimum time after defecation in order to limit the effects of time-based physiological processes that degrade samples.

"When we compared samples from Jenny and Etin obtained the day before, the day of and the day after tourist visitation, we found that stress hormone levels were significantly elevated in samples collected the day after tourist visitation, which is indicative of elevated cortisol production on the previous day," Muehlenbein said. "As for the unknown wild orangutans that we were also able to gather samples from, we found numerically, but not statistically, higher stress hormone levels in these animals following contact with researchers than in the habituated animals."

Different species and populations of animals likely react differently to human exposure, and those differences may be due to variation in tourism intensity (including distance between animals and visitors), the animal's stage of habituation, animal temperament, and even the presence of adequate coping or escape mechanisms, he believes.

"Transiently elevated stress hormone levels must be interpreted conservatively, as these may simply reflect normal responses to stimuli," Muehlenbein said. "But nature-based tourism programs that result in permanent alterations of stress physiology in their animals cannot be viewed as sustainable. However, low levels of predictable disturbance likely result in low physiological impact on these orangutans."

On a wider scale, he pointed out, animal usage should be kept minimal -- at least for pregnant females and ill animals and during times of resource restriction -- and the habituation processes gradual for all animals involved in eco-tourism.

Funding for this research was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Great Ape Conservation Fund, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and Indiana University.

Co-authors with Muehlenbein were Marc Ancrenaz of the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme, and the North of England Zoological Society; Rosman Sakong of Red Ape Encounters; Laurentius Ambu of the Sabah Wildlife Department; Sean Prall of IU Bloomington's Department of Anthropology; Grace Fuller of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Case Western Reserve University; and Mary Ann Raghanti of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Kent State University.

For more information or to speak with Muehlenbein, please contact Steve Chaplin, IU Communications, at 812-856-1896 or stjchap@iu.edu. Tweeting IU science news: @IndianaScience

"Ape conservation physiology: Fecal glucocorticoid responses in wild Pongo pygmaeus morio following human visitation," published March 15, 2012, in PLoS ONE, by Michael P. Muehlenbein, Marc Ancrenaz, Rosman Sakong, Laurentius Ambu, Sean Prall, Grace Fuller and Mary Ann Raghanti.

Steve Chaplin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

nachricht First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

PR of MCC: Carbon removal from atmosphere unavoidable for 1.5 degree target

22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences

Achema 2018: New camera system monitors distillation and helps save energy

22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>