The impact of changing religious practices on orangutan fieldwork and conservation in West Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia
Susanto, Tri Wahyu
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Citation (published version)Cheryl Knott, Cheryl Knott, Caitlin O'Connell, Terri Breeden, Tri Wahyu Susanto. 2018. "The Impact of Changing Religious Practices on Orangutan Fieldwork and Conservation in West Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia." American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Volume 165: Supplement 66, p. 29-30. 87th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Austin, Texas, 2018-04-11 - 2018-04-14.
Primate field projects are often under the direction of foreign researchers, who live and work alongside members of local communities. Here we discuss the impact of religion on orangutan research and conservation in Gunung Palung National Park, Indonesia over the past 25 years. We demonstrate how our local staff integrates orangutan conservation with religious practices. This includes sharing Islamic prayers on the responsibility of humans to safeguard nature, and the breaking of the fast during Ramadan with villages that are our conservation partners. Islam prohibits the eating of orangutans (as well as forest pigs). In contrast, the indigenous Dayak communities of Borneo historically do hunt and eat orangutans. This impacts the current orangutan distribution. At the Cabang Panti Research Site we have been recording the presence of hunters within our trail system, as well as the number of gunshots heard, since 2008. We find that there is a significant association between these occurrences and the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. We discuss changing religious values and how increasingly conservative practices affect foreign researchers, particularly women. We also detail how social media can help researchers become better informed about important local issues. For example, through our data collection we became aware that local people may be consuming wild pig meat around religious holidays, potentially unknowingly. Social media made us aware that local communities were concerned about this issue, which also impacts wildlife conservation, and thus we can tailor our outreach efforts to meet this intersection between religion and conservation.