National Geographic : 2016 Dec
outonalimb 75 people into our plans, I think we’re going to fail.” For orangutans to survive in their present di- versity, governments and conservationists must make smart choices about where to establish preserves, how to manage them, and how to use limited resources. They must find ways for the species to coexist with humans on two islands where habitat is constantly shrinking. “I see a lot of people trying to do conservation with their heart, with their feelings, which is fine,” Ancrenaz says. “But conservation has to be backed up with strong science. The goal of people doing research is to produce better knowledge, better understanding of orangutan ecology and genetics. The rest is actually using this knowl- edge to impact land use and communities. This is where conservation takes place.” In the forests of Borneo and Sumatra, orang- utan behavior determined by millions of years of evolution endures: Males challenge each oth- er with their calls, young males wait for their chances to assert dominance, and females teach their young how to survive in the treetops. Some of the mysteries of their lives have been revealed. What else we learn will depend on the success of this teaming of science and conservation, seek- ing answers about the links between humans and these apes that seem so like us when we look into their eyes. “As a scientist you’re supposed to be objec- tive,” Knott says, as we talk at her camp deep in the Borneo rain forest. “But you’re also human, and that connection is why I’m here.” j Photographer Tim Laman and anthropologist Cheryl Knott, a husband-and-wife team, have been documenting the private lives of orangutans since 1992. “Every year brings new surprises,” says Knott.