Evaluating orangutan census techniques using nest decay rates: Implications for population estimates

TitleEvaluating orangutan census techniques using nest decay rates: Implications for population estimates
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsMathewson PD, Spehar SN, Meijaard E, Nardiyono, Purnomo, Sasmirul A, Sudiyanto, Oman, Sulhnudin, Jasary, Jumali, Marshall AJ
JournalEcological Applications
Date PublishedJan
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1051-0761
Accession NumberISI:000253371800017
KeywordsAERIAL SURVEYS, ANALYSIS, BORNEO, CHIMPANZEES, decay rate, decomposition rate, DENSITY, FOREST, GORILLA-GORILLA-GORILLA, INDONESIA, LOPE-RESERVE, LOWLAND GORILLAS, Markov chain, methodology, NATIONAL-PARK, nest count, orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus, PONGO-PYGMAEUS, primate, survey, transect, WEST KALIMANTAN

An accurate estimate for orangutan nest decay time is a crucial factor in commonly used methods for estimating orangutan population size. Decay rates are known to vary, but the decay process and, thus, the temporal and spatial variation in decay time are poorly understood. We used established line-transect methodology to survey orangutan nests in a lowland forest in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, and monitored the decay of 663 nests over 20 months. Using Markov chain analysis we calculated a decay time of 602 days, which is significantly longer than times found in other studies. Based on this, we recalculated the orangutan density estimate for a site in East Kalimantan; the resulting density is much lower than previous estimates (previous estimates were 3-8 times higher than our recalculated density). Our data suggest that short-term studies where decay times are determined using matrix mathematics may produce unreliable decay times. Our findings have implications for other parts of the orangutan range where population estimates are based on potentially unreliable nest decay rate estimates, and we recommend that for various parts of the orangutan range census estimates be reexamined. Considering the high variation in decay rates there is a need to move away from using single-number decay time estimates and, preferably, to test methods that do not rely on nest decay times as alternatives for rapid assessments of orangutan habitat for conservation in Borneo.

URL<Go to ISI>://000253371800017
Alternate JournalEcol. Appl.