The Tuanan Orangutan Research Project


All pictures are property of The Tuanan Orangutan Research Project.

The Tuanan Orangutan Research Project is a joint effort to study a natural population of orangutans conducted by the Fakultas Biologi, Universitas Nasional, Jakarta (UNAS) and the Anthropological Institute and Museum, Universität Zürich, Switzerland (AIM/UZH), and in collaboration with Rutgers University (New Brunswick, USA). This project is conducted in the context of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF). The acquired basic information is made available to inform efforts to improve conservation of remaining populations and reintroduction of rescued orangutans.

In addition, several projects under a Memorandum of Understanding are undertaken in collaboration with faculty from the Primate Research Centre (PSSP; for genetics) and the Veterinary Department (for endocrinology) of the Institute Pertanian Bogor (IPB). Several projects are also conducted together with other researchers of the orangutan network from other universities. Simultaneous research projects in multiple study sites allow for detailed comparisons and enable a better understanding of the variation between orangutan populations. All research projects have been approved by the Scientific Advisory Board of the BOS Foundation.

The Tuanan project hopes to contribute to the education of the next generation of researchers and leaders in conservation by providing students with the opportunity to get training and conduct their own projects in an international team of researchers. To date more than 40 theses for university degrees have been completed based on student projects and additional data collected in theTuanan Orangutan Research Area (2009’S, 114026’E)


Main Long-Term Research Topics

  • Social learning of (novel) skills
  • Geographic variation in diet and learned behavioral elements
  • Developmental trajectory
  • Socio-endocrinology of males and females
  • Dispersal and socio-genetics
  • Range use by females and by males
  • Nutritional and mechanical properties of food items
  • Dietary ecology and foraging decisions



Research at Tuanan is coordinated by the UNAS-AIM-UZH team consisting of Dr. S.Suci Utami Atmoko, Drs. Tatang Mitra Setia, Dr. Maria A. van Noordwijk, Prof. Carel P. van Schaik, Dr. Michael Krützen, Dr. Tony Weingrill and Dr. Serge A. Wich, with additional long-term collaboration with Dr. Erin R. Vogel from Rutgers University (New Brunswick, USA). In addition, the research team is supported by a group of experienced field assistants: pak Rhamatd, pak Yandi, Tono, Idun and Abuk.

Between June 2003 and October 2012 more than 80 students and researchers have participated and contributed to the orangutan project in Tuanan coming from: Indonesia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, USA, Luxembourg, Columbia, Germany, Finland, Portugal, Sweden and England:

Serge Wich, Tine Geurts, Meredith Bastian3, Tirza Yohana1, Jorg Massen4, Didik Prasetyo1, Renee van Gelder, Danu Pamungkas4, Ari Meididit1, Anna Claire Schneider, Fikty Aprilinayati1, Astri Zulfa1, Fitriah Basalamah1, Caroline ten Have, Lynda P. Dunkel2, Agata Naso10, Madeleine Hardus4, Ellen Meulman4, Adriano Lameira10, Natascha Nieuwenhuis4, Marietta Paul2, Gurit Ady Suryo1, Tri Wahyu Susanto1, Sri Haryati1, Adrian V. Jaeggi2, Adi Hadi Nata Santana, Simone Sauren4, Erin Vogel, Fleur Scheele10, Anne van de Sluijs4, Janneke van Woerden4, Tremain Jones, Yanuar Ningsih, Susilowati, Agnes A. Linawati Sura1, Livia Haag2, Laura Damerius2, Noemi Arnold2, John Pettersson10, Jose Florez2 Joram Berlowitz2, Angga Pratama Putra1, Meret Latscha2, Nicole Zweifel2, Rahmalia N. A. Amda1, Brigitte Spillmann2, Mure Wipfli, Sarah Noetzli, Claudine Largo2, Flurina Wartmann2, Neneng Mardianah1, Ade Sunardi, Manuela Cadilek2, Pascal Marty2, Sofiah Rohmat1, Eko Prasetyo1, Nadine Hermann2, Didik Nuraeli, Devi Margareth, Moritz Fischer2, Dominique Haiden2, Abigail Phillips5, Andrew Cunningham, Tobias Bollman, David Marques2, Danny Trampé, Simon Röösli, Zoe Maxon, Sofia Forss, Jacqueline Frias, Meret Signer, Marcel Baumann, Syahik Nur Bani1, Diky Wahyudi, Cathleen Nguyen, Wisnu Witjiatmoko, Rebecca Armson, Alison Ashbury2, Markus Lütscher2, Stéphanie Mercier, Moh Hamdani1, Joandini Asmoro, Heri Sujoko, Caroline Schuppli6, Meret Heidman, Ricky Oldenkamp, Alysse Moldawer, Bonnie Evans, Tomi Ariyanto1, Tom Green2, Wendy Erb, Tim Bransford, Shauhin Alavi, Pawel Sierardzy, Anna Marzec, Piero Amodio2, Fajar Saputra1, Paige Prentice, Jessica Harding2, Mardianto Djinu1, Julia Kunz2, Eva Sari Rukmana, Ratna Imoetz, Yann Quenet, Wilhelm Osterman, Sonja Falkner2, Marlia Fajri Hayoto, Isabelle Betancourt, Rumaan Malhotra, Fernandes Orlando Marpaung, Julia Stickelberger, Nunzio Leo, Solène Loiseau10, Allie Hofner, Fidini Nisa, Hesti Dwi Setianingarum, Prima Lady, Afiqah Mizan, Ino Krisno , Julia Mörchen10, Carson Young, Misdi, Rebecca Brittain , Beth Barrow, Perry van Duijnhoven, Alexandra Kissling, Manon Bodin, Jade Meric de Bellefon2, Pierre Martigny, Kharisma Aris, Rizky, Daniel Naumenko, Kristana P. Makur, Asrul David, Cecilia Vega-Mayer, Katherine Meier, Caroline Fryns, Ellie Ezekiel, Conor Harbeck, Marlen Fröhlich

1 S1/S2 thesis at UNAS or other Indonesian University
2 MSc thesis Zurich University, Switzerland
3 PhD thesis Duke University, United States of America
4 MSc thesis Utrecht University, the Netherlands
5 University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
6 PhD thesis Zurich University, Switzerland
10 Degree from other University
Bold: managers of the project and people with repeated stays at Tuanan


Scientific publications (partly) based in research at Tuanan


Saputra F, Perwitasari-Farajallah D, Utami-Atmoko SS, Ariyanto, T, van Noordwijk MA (2017) Monthly range of adolescent orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) based on fruit availability in Tuanan Orangutan Research Station, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Biodiversitas 18 (4): 1445-1452. DOI: 10.13057/biodiv/d1804xx

Schuppli C, Forss S, Meulman E, Atmoko SU, van Noordwijk M, and van Schaik C. 2017. The effects of sociability on exploratory tendency and innovation repertoires in wild Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. Scientific Reports 7(1):15464.

Spillmann B, van Schaik CP, Mitra Setia T, Sadjadi SO (2017) Who shall I say is calling? Validation of a caller recognition procedure in Bornean flanged male orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) longcalls. Bioacoustics doi :10.1080/09524622.2016.1216802)

Spillmann B, Willems EP, van Noordwijk MA, Mitra Setia T, van Schaik CP (2017) Confrontational assessment in the roving male promiscuity mating system of the Bornean orangutan. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 71:20, doi: 10.1007/s00265-016-2252-6


Vogel ER, Alavi SE, Utami-Atmoko SS, van Noordwijk MA, Bransford TD, Erb WM, Zulfa A, Sulistyo F, Farida WR, Rothman JM (2016) Nutritional ecology of wild Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) in a peat swamp habitat: Effects of age, sex, and season. American Journal of Primatology; DOI 10.1002/ajp.22618

Schuppli C, Forss SIF, Meulman EJM, Zweifel N, Lee KC, Rukmana E, Vogel ER, van Noordwijk MA, van Schaik CP (2016) Development of foraging skills in two orangutan populations: needing to learn or needing to grow? Frontiers in Zoology 13 (1), 43DOI 10.1186/s12983-016-0178-5

Schuppli C, Meulman EJM, Forss SIF, Aprilinayati F, van Noordwijk MA, van Schaik CP (2016) Observational social learning and socially induced practice of routine skills in immature wild orang-utans. Animal Behaviour 119 (2016) 87-98

Marzec AM, Kunz JA, & Sonja Falkner S, Utami Atmoko SS, Alavi SE, Moldawer AM, Vogel ER, Schuppli C, van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA (2016) The dark side of the red ape: male-mediated lethal female competition in Bornean orangutans. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology  70:459–466 DOI 10.1007/s00265-015-2053-3

Harrison ME, Zweifel N, Husson SJ, Cheyne SM, D’Arcy LJ,  Harsanto FA, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Purwanto A, Rahmatd, Santiano, Vogel ER, Wich SA, van Noordwijk MA (2016) Disparity in Onset Timing and Frequency of Flowering and Fruiting Events in Two Bornean Peat-Swamp Forests. Biotropica 48: 188-197  DOI 10.1111/btp.12265


Vogel ER, Harrison ME, Zulfa A, Bransford TD, Alavi SE, Husson S, Morrogh-Bernard H, Santiano,Firtsman T, Utami-Atmoko SS, van Noordwijk MA, Farida WR (2015) Nutritional Differences between Two Orangutan Habitats: Implications for Population Density. PLoS ONE 10 (10): e0138612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138612

Ashbury AM, Posa MRC, Dunkel LP, Spillmann B, Utami Atmoko SS, van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA (2015) Why do orangutans leave the trees? Terrestrial behavior among wild Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) at Tuanan, Central Kalimantan. American Journal of Primatology 77 1216–1229 DOI: 10.1002/ajp.22460.

Chappell J, Phillips AC, van Noordwijk MA, Mitra Setia T, Thorpe KS (2015) The ontogeny of gap crossing behaviour in Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii). PLoS ONE 10(7):e0130291. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0130291.

Forss SIF, Schuppli C, Haiden D, Zweifel N, van Schaik CP (2015) Contrasting responses to novelty by wild and captive orangutans. American Journal of Primatology 77: 1109-1121 DOI: 10.1002/ajp.22445.

Marty PR, van Noordwijk MA, Heistermann M, Willems EP, Dunkel LP, Cadilek M, Agil M, Weingrill T (2015)Endocrinological correlates of male bimaturism in wild Bornean orangutans. American Journal of Primatology 77:1170–1178 DOI: 10.1002/ajp.22453.

Spillmann B, van Noordwijk MA, Willems E, Mitra Setia T, Wipfli U, van Schaik CP (2015) Validation of an acoustic location system to monitor Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) long calls. American Journal of Primatology 77:767–776 DOI: 10.1002/ajp.22398.


Vogel ER, Zulfa A, Hardus M, Wich SA, Dominy NJ, Taylor AB (2014) Food mechanical properties, feeding ecology, and the mandibular morphology of wild orangutans. Journal of Human Evolution 75: 110-124.


Dunkel LP, Arora N, van Noordwijk MA, Utami Atmoko SS, Prathama Putra A, Krützen M, van Schaik CP (2013) Variation in developmental arrest among male orangutans: a comparison between a Sumatran and a Bornean population. Frontiers in Zoology 10:12. doi:10.1186/1742-9994-10-12

Lameira AR, de Vries H, Hardus ME, Hall CPA, Mitra-Setia T, Spruijt BM, Kershenbaum A, Sterck EHM, van Noordwijk M, van Schaik C, Wich SA (2013) Predator guild does not influence orangutan alarm call rates and combinations. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67 (2013): 519-28. doi 10.1007/s00265-012-1471-8

van Noordwijk,MA, Kuzawa CW, van Schaik CP(2013). The evolution of the patterning of human lactation: a comparative perspective. Evolutionary Anthropology 22: 202-212.

van Noordwijk MA, Willems EP, Utami Atmoko SS, Kuzawa CW, van Schaik CP (2013) Multi-year lactation and its consequences in Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii).
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67:805-814. doi 10.1007/s00265-013-1504-y


Lucas PW, Constantino PJ, Vogel ER, Chalk J, Talebi M, Wagner M (2012) Measuring the toughness of primate foods and its ecological value. International Journal of Primatology 33(3): 598-610.

Arora N, van Noordwijk MA, Ackermann C, Willems EP, Nater A, Greminger M, Nietlisbach P, Dunkel LP, Utami Atmoko SS, Pamungkas J, Perwitasari-Farajallah D, Van Schaik CP, Krützen M (2012) Parentage-based pedigree reconstruction reveals female matrilineal clusters and male-biased dispersal in nongregarious Asian great apes, the Bornean orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus). Molecular Ecology 21 (13):3352-3362. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05608.x

Bastian ML, van Noordwijk MA, van Schaik CP (2012) Innovative behaviors in wild Bornean orangutans revealed by targeted population comparison. Behaviour. 149:275-297. doi:

Nietlisbach P, Arora N, Nater A, Goossens B, Van Schaik CP, Krützen M (2012) Heavily male-biased long-distance dispersal of orang-utans (genus: Pongo), as revealed by Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial genetic markers. Molecular Ecology 21 (13):3173-3186. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05539.x

van Noordwijk MA, Arora N, Willems EP, Dunkel L P, Amda RN, Mardianah N, Ackermann C, Krützen M, van Schaik CP (2012) Female philopatry and its social benefits among Bornean orangutans. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 66 (6):823-834. doi:10.1007/s00265-012-1330-7


Nater A, Nietlisbach P, Arora N, van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA, Willems EP, Singleton I, Wich SA, Goossens B, Warren KS, Verschoor EJ, Perwitasari-Farajallah D, Pamungkas J, and Krützen M. 2011. Sex-biased dispersal and volcanic activities shaped phylogeographic patterns of extant orangutans (genus: Pongo). Molecular Biology and Evolution 28:2275–2288


Wich S, Vogel E, Larsen M, Frederiksson G, Leighton M, Yeager C, Brearley F, van Schaik C, Marshall A (2011) Forest fruit production is higher on Sumatra than on Borneo. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21278.

Arora N, Nater A, van Schaik CP, Willems EP, van Noordwijk MaA, Goossens B, Morf N, Bastian M, Knott CD, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Kuze N, Kanamori T, Pamungkas J, Perwitasari-Farajallah D, Verschoor E, Warren K, and Krützen M. 2010. Effects of Pleistocene glaciations and rivers on the population structure of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(50):21376-21381.
Bastian ML, Zweifel N, Vogel ER, Wich SA, and van Schaik CP. 2010. Diet traditions in wild orangutans. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 143(2):175-187.
Jaeggi AV, Dunkel LP, van Noordwijk MA, Wich SA, Sura AAL, and van Schaik CP. 2010. Social learning of diet and foraging skills by wild immature Bornean orangutans: implications for culture. American Journal of Primatology 72(1):62-71.
Spillmann B, Dunkel LP, Van Noordwijk MA, Amda RNA, Lameira AR, Wich SA, and van Schaik CP. 2010. Acoustic properties of long calls given by flanged male orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) reflect both individual identity and context. Ethology 116(5):385-395.
Wartmann F, Purves R, and van Schaik C. 2010. Modelling ranging behaviour of female orang-utans: a case study in Tuanan, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Primates 51(2):119-130.


Hardus ME, Lameira AR, van Schaik CP, and Wich SA. 2009. Tool use in wild orang-utans modifies sound production: a functionally deceptive innovation? Proc Roy Soc Biology 276: 3689-3694

Harrison ME, Vogel ER, Morrogh-Bernard HC, and van Noordwijk MA. 2009. Methods for calculating activity budgets compared: a case study using orangutans. American Journal of Primatology 71(4):353-358.
van Noordwijk MA, and van Schaik CP 2009. Intersexual food transfer among orangutans: do females test males for coercive tendency? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63(6):883-890.
Vogel ER, Haag L, Mitra Setia T, van Schaik CP, and Dominy NJ. 2009. Foraging and ranging behavior during a fallback episode: Hylobates albibarbis and Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii compared. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 140(4):716-726.
Vogel ER, van Woerden JT, Lucas PW, Utami Atmoko SS, van Schaik CP, and Dominy NJ. 2008. Functional ecology and evolution of hominoid molar enamel thickness: Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii and Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii. Journal of Human Evolution 55(1):60-74.


Taylor AB, Vogel ER, Dominy NJ (2008) Masticatory biomechanics and food mechanical properties in large-bodied hominoids. Journal of Human Evolution 55(4): 604-616.

Dominy NJ, Vogel ER, Yeakel JD, Constantino P, Lucas PW (2008) The mechanical properties of plant underground storage organs and implications for the adaptive radiation and resource partitioning of early hominins. Evolutionary Biology 35(3): 157-175.


Wich SA, Utami Atmoko SS, Mitra-Setia T, and van Schaik CP, editors. 2009. Orangutans. Geographic Variation in Behavioral Ecology and Conservation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chapters in this book, partly based on data collected in Tuanan:
Hardus ME, Lameira AR, Singleton I, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Knott CD, Ancrenaz M, Utami Atmoko SS, and Wich SA. 2009. A description of the orangutan's vocal and sound repertoire, with a focus on geographic variation. p 49-64.
Wich SA, de Vries H, Ancrenaz M, Perkins L, Shumaker RW, Suzuki A, and van Schaik CP. 2009. Orangutan life history variation. p 65-75.
Husson SJ, Wich SA, Marshall AJ, Dennis RD, Ancrenaz M, Brassey R, Gumal M, Hearn AJ, Meijaard E, Simorangkir T, and Singleton I. 2009. Orangutan distribution, density, abundance and impacts of disturbance. p 77-96.
Marshall AJ, Ancrenaz M, Brearley FQ, Frederiksson GB, Ghaffar N, Heydon M, Husson SJ, Leighton M, McConkey KR, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Proctor J, van Schaik CP, Yeager CP, and Wich SA. 2009. The effects of forest phenology and floristics on populations of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. p 97-117.
Morrogh-Bernard HC, Husson SJ, Knott CD, Wich SA, van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA, Lackman-Ancrenaz I, marshall AJ, Kanamori T, Kuze N, and bin Sankong R. 2009. Orangutan activity budgets and diet. p 119-133.
Russon AE, Wich SA, ancrenaz M, Kanamori T, Knott CD, Kuze N, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Pratje P, Ramlee H, Rodman P, Sawang A, Sidiyasa K, Singleton I, and van Schaik CP. 2009. Geographic variation in orangutan diets. p 135-156.
van Noordwijk MA, Sauren SEB, Nuzuar, Abulani A, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Utami Atmoko SS, and van Schaik CP. 2009. Development of independence Sumatran and Bornean orangutans compared. p 189-203.
Singleton IS, Knott CD, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Wich SA, and van Schaik CP. 2009. Ranging behavior of orangutan females and social organization. p 205-213.
Delgado RA, Lameira AR, Davilla Ross M, Husson SJ, Morrogh-Bernard HC, and Wich SA. 2009. Geographical variation in orangutan long calls. p 215-224.
Utami Atmoko SS, Singleton IS, van Noordwijk MA, van Schaik CP, and Mitra Setia T. 2009. Male-male relationships in orangutans. p 225-234.
Utami Atmoko SS, Mitra Setia T, Goosens B, James SS, Knott CD, Morrogh-Bernard HC, van Schaik CP, and van Noordwijk MA. 2009. Orangutan mating behavior and strategies. p 245-253
van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA, and Vogel ER. 2009. Ecological sex differences in wild orangutans. p 255-268.
Prasetyo D, Ancrenaz M, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Utami Atmoko SS, Wich SA, and van Schaik CP. 2009. Nest building in orangutans. p 269-277.
Russon AE, van Schaik CP, Kuncoro P, Ferisa A, Handayani DP, and van Noordwijk MA. 2009. Innovation and intelligence in orangutans. p 279-298.
van Schaik CP, Ancrenaz M, Djojoasmoro R, Knott CD, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Nuzuar, Odom K, Utami Atmoko SS, and van Noordwijk MA. 2009. Orangutan cultures revisited. p 299-309.
van Schaik CP, Marshall AJ, and Wich SA. 2009. Geographic variation in orangutan behavior and biology. p 351-361.


Lameira AR and Wich SA, 2008. Orangutan long call degradation and individuality over distance: a playback approach. International Journal of Primatology 29: 615-625.

Jaeggi AV, van Noordwijk MA, and van Schaik CP. 2008. Begging for information: mother–offspring food sharing among wild Bornean orangutans. American Journal of Primatology 70(6):533-541.


van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA, and Wich SA. 2006. Innovation in wild Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii). Behaviour 143:839-876.


van Schaik CP, Wich SA, Utami SS, and Odom K. 2005. A simple alternative to line transects of nests for estimating orangutan densities. Primates 46(4):249-254



Information about opportunities for students to conduct a research project or help in ongoing projects can be obtained from:

S. Suci Utami Atmoko
Fakultas Biologi, Universitas Nasional, Jakarta, Indonesia:

Maria A. van Noordwijk
Anthropological Institute and Museum, Universität Zürich Switzerland:

Erin R. Vogel
Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA:



Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation:

Mawas Area Conservation Program:

University of Zurich Master’s Program:

Project in the Estonian language