Wild orangutans are known for their ability to weather food shortages. However, scientists have found that endangered monkeys in Borneo have lost muscle mass due to lack of fruit in their diets.
A new study by scientists at Rutgers University highlights the need to protect the habitat of endangered primates. They suffer from rapid destruction of their habitual habitat and threats from climate change. Now it turns out that the muscle mass of orangutans on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia has decreased due to a lack of fruit in the diet. This discovery surprised scientists – it is believed that orangutans are good at storing and using fat for energy. Research results are published by Scientific Reports.
Conservation plans should take into account the availability of fruit in areas of the forest that orangutans may have to occupy, as deforestation continues throughout their range, scientists say.
Researchers measured creatinine, a waste product from muscle rupture, in the urine of a wild orangutan to estimate how much muscle the primates had when they had few fruits compared to when they had a lot. The difference was huge.
The findings highlight that any further disruption in their fruit supply could have disastrous consequences for their health and survival.
Orangutans weigh about 82 kg and live up to 55 years in the wild. Deforestation associated with logging, palm oil and paper pulp production, and hunting pose a threat to orangutans, whose numbers have declined dramatically in recent decades.