Almost Fourty Years of Data
Ketambe is home to one of the longest running studies of any great ape, anywhere in the world. Largely thanks to SOCP, working together with other scientists and the local authorities, the research there continues unabated.
Ketambe, first established by Dr. Herman Rijksen in 1971, is probably even more significant and more famous than Suaq Balimbing. Alongside Jane Goodall's chimpanzee research site at Gombe, in Tanzania, and the Karisoke Mountain Gorilla project established in Rwanda by the late Dian Fossey, Ketambe is one of the top 3 longest running continuous studies of any great ape species anywhere in the world. The Ketambe orangutans have also contributed the lion's share of what we know about wild orangutans today. Thanks largely to SOCP, working closely with other scientists and government authorities, this work continued through most of the Aceh conflict and students are still continuously monitoring the orangutans there.
With the onset of civil unrest in Aceh at the end of 1999 the future of research at Ketambe was uncertain, to say the least, and as no new research permits could be granted during the conflict research work ceased completely in early 2002. Fortunately, however, SOCP working together with scientists elsewhere and the local management authorities succeeded in resuming data collection in mid-2003 and continuing the very important work there. Our presence also kept illegal loggers out of the area and prevented the station itself being destroyed by either the military or separatists, both of whom where regular visitors to the camp.
Our research at Ketambe focuses on studying the effects of illegal logging in the area during the early days of the conflict on the orangutans and other primates. At the same time we are able to collect extremely useful data on the orangutan population, adding to the decades of information we already have. This gives us exceptionally valuable information on the life histories of many of the individual orangutans that live there. Some of them are now known to be over 50 years old, having been first recognised, as mature adults, and named by Dr Rijksen himself back in 1971!