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New book expands field data available on orangutans
Date:2/23/2009

eally good people with data from one population, we sought data from many scientists," Wich said. "This gives us the advantage of looking at differences site by site."

The comparison gives scientists a better understanding of how such ecological factors as fruit availability in the forest, for example, affects various orangutan populations. "By taking a look at differences in ecology, it's easier to understand variation," Wich said. "That's why looking at one taxon is a very useful approach."

Having such data available in one source "makes us think differently about conservation issues," he continued. "If all orangutans were all the same, maybe saving a population here and a population there is enough to conserve the species, but if they're different, conservation measures should reflect that. This site-by-site collection of data makes it much more strategic for us to consider all of these differences. What we are trying to do is not only preserve numbers, but also take geographic variation into account."

The book points out not only differences between Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, but also their subspecies. There are three known Bornean orangutan subspecies Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii and Pongo pygmaeus morio and no known subspecies of Sumatran orangutans.

Great Ape Trust's Dr. Rob Shumaker, one of the scientists invited to contribute chapters to the volume, said the book is "extraordinarily important," in part because it fills a void in both the quality and quantity of comparative data available on orangutans. "The comparative literature that exists on orangutans is sparse when compared to what we know about chimpanzees, for example," said Shumaker, who also pointed to a "very notable and unusual level of collaboration among scientists who worked together to create chapters."

"It's rare to achieve this level of collaboration and cooperation among field researchers," he said. "It's very di
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Contact: Al Setka
asetka@greatapetrust.org
515-243-3580
Great Ape Trust of Iowa
Source:Eurekalert  

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