An orangutan in a tree
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Orangutans 'found on ground'

The famously tree-loving orangutan may in fact spend more time than previously thought on the ground.

Scientists set camera traps on the floor of the jungle in Borneo, and filmed roughly the same number of orangutans as they did of a ground-dwelling monkey, the pig-tailed macaque.

The results suggest both male and female orangutans may already have coping strategies in place, meaning they could manage if forced to spend more time on the forest floor as deforestation reduces their habitat.

The findings are of relevance not only to students of primate behaviour but to anyone with an interest in human evolution, orangutans aren't the first ape to have come down from the trees, after all.

Research published in the American Journal of Primatology in June, has been reported in the new edition of New Scientist, which is out today.

Dr Julia P Myatt, lecturer in behavioural ecology at the University of Birmingham, has studied orangutans in the field, and has found orangutans "do different things in different places."

"What's so fascinating is that we've always thought that they don't come to the ground very often. Particularly on Sumatra as there's Sumatran tigers there, they rarely come to the ground," she explained.

"In Borneo we know it happens more, particularly the flanged males. What's so interesting with this study is that it shows that in this population, it's all of the individuals. It's the females, juveniles, the males."

"They come to the ground more, and that's what's new," she added.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday 4 July 2013.

  • 04 Jul 2013