The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) are working to establish new, viable orangutan populations comprised of rehabilitated and translocated orangutans, as a safety net should catastrophe befall the remaining truly wild populations. To monitor the progress of these orangutans, the SOCP utilizes field monitoring teams.

According to the most recent orangutan Population Viability and Habitat Assessment, an ideal minimum viable population for a period of 100 years is 250 mature orangutans (Utami-Atmoko et al. 2017). Provided the difficulties of monitoring released orangutans highlighted above and the need to monitor individuals for a minimum of one year after release (Beck et al. 2007), an enhanced means of post-release monitoring is a critical component to the success of the orangutan reintroduction programs in Sumatra.

We seek to develop a bio-logger that can be attached to the released orangutans’ ankles. This bio-logger will provide near real-time information on an animal’s location and physiology. This information will allow the SOCP to enhance their post-release monitoring activities and provide critical interventions if necessary. This is seen as the last step in an already successful orangutan reintroduction program.

The project is divided into three phases phase one, prototyping; phase two, hardware implementation and platform installation and testing; and phase three, operational deployment and evaluation.

Phase One - Prototyping

During phase one, which is expected to be approximately four months, our team will design six orangutan-proof sensor-housing prototypes for the ICARUS platform (see below), and two strap prototypes. Each sensor-housing prototype will be tested using both of the strap prototypes (e.g., sensor housing 1 with straps a & b, sensor housing 2 with straps a & b). These initial 12 prototypes are referred to as version one (V1) anklets.

The V1 prototypes will be tested for safety and function on orangutans at SOCPs Batu Mbelin Orangutan Quarantine Facility. The sensor-housing and anklet will be placed on an animal for standard testing periods of 1, 5, and 30 days. During each period, the developer team along with SOCP veterinary and keeper staff will observe for behavioral and physical changes caused by the anklet.  Next, our team will use these results to design, build, and live test a second set of 12 prototype (V2) anklets.

Phase Two - Hardware and Transmitter Platform

We are working closely with the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space (ICARUS) organization. Their aim is to extend satellite-based observation to Earth’s fauna. In February 2018, the ICARUS system was installed on the Russian module of the International Space Station (ISS). The ICARUS operational phase is scheduled to begin in August 2018.

The small ICARUS tags provide three-dimensional location information via GPS, which uplink information via ISS satellite and terrestrial receivers. The tags have an internal memory and are already programmed with sensors to measure acceleration, temperature, humidity, pressure, altitude, and heart rate. Relevant information is sent to Movebank, an open-source, online database developed by the ICARUS team.  Given the timeline of the ICARUS project, we are also evaluating other data transmission platforms, with a special focus on Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN).

We will review the functionality of these platforms for data transmission in the Sumatran rainforest ecosystem. Our team will also oversee the installation of a terrestrial base station at the SOCP’s Jantho Orangutan Reintroduction Station. Real-world testing will give necessary information for spatial planning and deployment of base stations.

After installation, our team will test ICARUS sensor hardware and data platform functionality at Jantho. Geospatial analyses will be done to evaluate the effective transmit distance in the area, and used to design an effective plan on the placement...

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