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Cheryl Knott
Grantee: Cheryl Knott, Anthropologist
Borneo, Indonesia

Time spent by research team:
More than 50,000 hours over the past decade

Gunung Palung National Park, Borneo, Indonesia

Park's orangutan population:
About 2,500

Worldwide population:
15,000 to 24,000 in the wild

Dangers for orangutans: By some estimates more than 80 percent of all orangutan habitat has been destroyed. Since 1996, legal and illegal logging has consumed about five million acres (two million hectares) of forest each year.

Spreading awareness:
"Through our educational outreach programs and awareness campaigns around the park, we are drawing public attention to the orangutans' plight and helping to make a difference. It would be tragic to let these great apes slip away."


Learn More

Gunung Palung Orangutan Project
Visit Dr. Cheryl Knott's website featuring her orangutan research in Gunung Palung National Park, Borneo, Indonesia.

Balikpapan Orangutan Society–USA
Learn more about these red apes at this website, which includes education resources and things you can do to help protect orangutans.

Orangutans Online
This website contains frequent updates on topics related to orangutan conservation.

Global Forest Watchenglish/indonesia/
A World Resources Institute initiative, this network provides information on forests throughout the world, including Indonesia.


Felton, Annika M., and others. "Orangutan population density, forest structure and fruit availability in hand-logged and unlogged peat swamp forests in West Kalimantan, Indonesia," expected to be published in Biological Conservation
November 2003), 91-101.

Jepson, Paul, and others. "The End for Indonesia's Lowland Forests?" Science (May 4, 2001), 859-61.

Knott, Cheryl D. "Orangutan Behavior and Ecology." In The Nonhuman Primates, ed. P. Dolhinow and A. Fuentes. Mayfield Publishing Company, 1999.

Knott, Cheryl D. "Changes in orangutan diet, caloric intake and ketones in response to fluctuating fruit availability." International Journal of Primatology (1998), 1061-79.

Matthews, Emily, ed. The State of the Forest: Indonesia. Forest Watch Indonesia and Global Forest Watch, 2002. Available online at

Van Schaik, Carel P., and Cheryl D. Knott. "Geographic Variation in Tool Use on Neesia Fruits in Orangutans," American Journal of Physical Anthropology (April 2001), 331-42.

Van Schaik, Carel P., and others. "Orangutan Cultures and the Evolution of Material Culture," Science (January 3, 2003), 102-5.


Field Dispatch: Borneo

Photographs by Tim Laman

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This Week's Questions. Click on a question for a full response.


What is the average life span for an orangutan?


 What other parts of the world are orangutans found?


What is the hardest aspect of studying
these animals?


How many babies does the average female conceive in her lifetime?


How much does the Indonesian government know about the orangutans?






Question 1:

What is the average life span for an orangutan?


In captivity they can live to about 50 years of age, although a few
have lived longer.  We don't really know yet what the average life
span is in the wild—probably is likely less than that.

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Question 2:

What is the hardest aspect of studying these animals?


Finding them!  Orangutans are very cryptic, because they are solitary.

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Question 3:

How much does the Indonesian government know about the orangutans' possible extinction? What action is it taking?


Government officials are very aware of the impending possibility of
orangutan extinction through the efforts of both national and
international scientists and conservationists.  Actions are being
taken to stop illegal logging, but this is a very large problem that
requires more resources to stop it.

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Question 4:

What other parts of the world are orangutans found?


Orangutans are found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, which
are part of Indonesia and Malaysia.

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Question 5:

How many babies does the average female conceive in her lifetime?


Females start giving birth around 15 years of age and only have, on
average, one baby every eight years.  So the maximum would be about four
offspring.  We have one female orangutan who we've followed
extensively in our study site, Kristen, who has now had four babies.

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