The SUAQ Program is researching the behavior and biology of the Sumatran orangutans through research projects of the University of Zürich in Switzerland, the Universitas Nasional in Indonesia and the MPI of Animal Behavior in Germany. With this, we work towards conservation at its very core, namely protecting one of the last remaining natural habitats of the Sumatran orangutans, as well as finding out the species’ biological needs through behavioral research.
Both steps are indispensable to effectively secure the survival of this fascinating species which is at the very brink of extinction.
Who we are
The SUAQ Program is an orangutan research and conservation program at the Suaq Balimbing monitoring station in Sumatra, Indonesia, run by the Department of Anthropology of the University of Zurich, Switzerland (AIM), Universitas Nasional in Jakarta, Indonesia (UNAS) and the Evolution and Development of Cognition Research group at the MPI of Animal Behavior in Konstanz Germany. The Suaq Balimbing monitoring station is run by the Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP).
Orangutans are losing their habitat
Belonging to the great apes, orangutans are one of humans closest relatives. The habitat of the Sumatran orangutans is increasingly destroyed by legal and illegal deforestation for the production of timber or for palm oil plantations. As a consequence, the orangutans and many other species are losing the basis of their existence. Also, orangutan babies are still illegally traded as pets whereby their mothers are killed. Following most recent estimations, less than 15’000 Sumatran Orangutans are left.
Suaq is one of the last strong holds of the Sumatran orangutan
The forest of Suaq shows the highest density of orangutans on earth. The Suaq orangutans are special as they show the most sophisticated and varied behaviors of all orangutans, including the use of tools. At the same time, they are uniquely tolerant to each other, allowing them to pass on acquired knowledge from one generation to the other. This unique constellation gave rise to a fascinating orangutan culture of which new facets are still being discovered.
Research for conservation
Our main goal is learning about the biology and behavior of the Sumatran Orangutans to ultimately better protect the species and their habitat. Protecting the Suaq forest will not just save one of the last populations of Sumatran orangutans but an entire orangutan culture. On top of that, it will contribute to the conservation of many other species.
The presence of the research program and the job opportunities it provides to the local community greatly contribute to the protection of the area. This gets further enhanced by our close work with the local communities in the form of education projects through which we directly share our findings with them. Through behavioral research we aim to understand the conservation relevant biology of the Sumatran orangutans and find ways to secure its survival. By gaining understanding of the behavior of a species that is closely related to our own, we also aim to shed further light on our own evolutionary history.