Can You Study Great Apes During a Pandemic?


In March 2020, I was part of a small team of biologists from the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation that journeyed to one of the remotest regions of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia in order to investigate the long-term survival success of a newly-reintroduced population of Critically Endangered Bornean orangutans in Bukit Batikap Protection Forest.

News was growing on the spread of a novel coronavirus, but as we traveled along dirt roads and scenic rivers to our field destination, none of us predicted that we were on the brink of a global pandemic. Just as COVID-19 has negatively impacted so many people, so too has it impacted the wildlife – although those impacts are yet to be fully understood. Working to conserve orangutans, I reviewed the consequences of a pandemic on these great apes and how, going forward, we can safely study and protect them.

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