Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 6, pp 823–834 | Cite as

Female philopatry and its social benefits among Bornean orangutans

  • Maria A. van Noordwijk
  • Natasha Arora
  • Erik P. Willems
  • Lynda P. Dunkel
  • Rahmalia N. Amda
  • Neneng Mardianah
  • Corinne Ackermann
  • Michael Krützen
  • Carel P. van Schaik
Original Paper


Female philopatry in mammals is generally associated with ecological and sometimes social benefits, and often with dispersal by males. Previous studies on dispersal patterns of orangutans, largely non-gregarious Asian great apes, have yielded conflicting results. Based on 7 years of observational data and mitochondrial and nuclear DNA analyses on fecal samples of 41 adult Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) from the Tuanan population, we provide both genetic and behavioral evidence for male dispersal and female philopatry. Although maternally related adult female dyads showed similar home-range overlap as unrelated dyads, females spent much more time in association with known maternal relatives than with other females. While in association, offspring of maternally related females frequently engaged in social play, whereas mothers actively prevented this during encounters with unrelated mothers, suggesting that unrelated females may pose a threat to infants. Having trustworthy neighbors may therefore be a social benefit of philopatry that may be common among solitary mammals, thus reinforcing female philopatric tendencies in such species. The results also illustrate the diversity in dispersal patterns found within the great-ape lineage.


Male dispersal Female philopatry Pedigree Female–female association Range overlap Social play 



We are grateful to the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), the Indonesian State Ministry for Research and Technology (RisTek), the Director General Departemen Kehutanan (PHKA), Departamen Dalam Negri, the local government in Central Kalimantan, the BKSDA Palangkaraya, the Bornean Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) and MAWAS in Palangkaraya for their permission and support to conduct this research. We also thank the Fakultas Biologi Universitas Nasional (UNAS) in Jakarta for their collaboration and support for the Tuanan project and in particular drs. Tatang Mitra Setia and dr. Suci Utami Atmoko, and we gratefully acknowledge the collaboration of dr. Joko Pamungkas of PSSP-IPB with permit arrangements for the genetic samples. We are indebted to field team and in particular Pak Rahmatd and Pak Yandi for their help with collecting data and samples in the field. We thank Claude Rosselet and Pascal Marty for their work on the ArcGis database, and Alex Nater, Elvira Schneider and Moritz Fischer for their contributions to the genetic analyses. We thank the reviewers and David Watts for their constructive comments on the manuscript. Samples were exported from Indonesia to Switzerland under permits 07279/IV/SATS-LN/2009, 00961/IV/SATS-LN/2007 from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. For major financial support we thank the University of Zurich, and the A.H. Schultz Stiftung.

Ethical standards

Behavioral observations comply with the Indonesian laws. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOC 81 kb)
265_2012_1330_MOESM2_ESM.doc (36 kb)
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265_2012_1330_MOESM3_ESM.doc (55 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria A. van Noordwijk
    • 1
  • Natasha Arora
    • 1
  • Erik P. Willems
    • 1
  • Lynda P. Dunkel
    • 1
  • Rahmalia N. Amda
    • 2
  • Neneng Mardianah
    • 2
  • Corinne Ackermann
    • 1
  • Michael Krützen
    • 1
  • Carel P. van Schaik
    • 1
  1. 1.Anthropological Institute and MuseumUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Fakultas BiologiUniversitas NasionalJakartaIndonesia

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