Orangutans, already critically endangered due to habitat loss from logging and large-scale farming, may face another threat in the form of smoke from natural and human-caused fires, a Rutgers University–New Brunswick study finds.
The study appears in the journal Scientific Reports.
In 2015, Wendy Erb, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers, was studying male orangutans in the forests of Indonesian Borneo when fires started. She and her colleagues at the Tuanan Orangutan Research Station continued working until they had to stop and help fight the blazes, which occur annually, often due to smallholder farmers and plantations clearing forests to plant crops.
A few weeks into the fire season, Erb noticed a difference in the sound of the males’ “long call,” which scientists believe is used to attract females and warn other males. “I thought they sounded raggedy, a little like humans who smoke a lot,” she said. MORE