Eco-tourism can stress wild orangutans

March 19th, 2012 - 12:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 19 (IANS) Wild orangutans can become stressed in the presence of eco-tourists over time. But they remain relatively less affected than other animals that show signs of chronic stress, latest research by Indiana University shows.

Anthropologist Michael P. Muehlenbein can’t yet say what makes the wild orangutans of Borneo deal with stress differently than other species in other locations. But, an analysis of hormone levels recorded before, during and after the wild apes interacted with eco-tourists found higher levels of stress hormone cortisol on the day of an interaction, which returned to normal afterward, a university statement said.

By analyzing faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGM) levels of orangutans in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, Malaysia, Muehlenbein’s team was looking to gauge levels of disturbance on wildlife exposed to eco-tourism, a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that is growing annually.

Red Ape Encounters, a community-owned and operated eco-tourism programme in Sabah that assisted with the research, facilitates the only trekking programme for wild orangutans in the world.

“But rapid, unmonitored development of nature-based tourism can also lead to habitat degradation and negative impacts on the very species we wish to protect,” Muehlenbein said.

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