SIU student contributes to discovery of new orangutan species
A doctoral student who was part of a team that discovered a new species of great ape credits Southern Illinois University (SIU) for letting him be a part of the seven-year-long odyssey.
Matthew Nowak, who is earning his doctorate in anthropology at SIU, assisted with the discovery of the Tapanuli orangutan, known also by the scientific name, Pongo tapanuliensis, in the upland forests of North Sumatra, according to SIU News. Only about 800 individuals in the species are alive, making it the world’s most endangered great ape, the publication noted.
“My studies in the anthropology department and their fantastic faculty in particular really helped prepare me to set out and do my doctoral research,” Nowak told the News. “It’s essentially provided me the basic structure that allowed me to develop into the scholar that I have become.”
Nowak went to Indonesia in 2010 to complete his doctoral work and became involved in the research, according to the News article. When he completed his field work, Nowak was invited by the director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme to stay on and help.
Researchers have studied orangutan populations in the area for almost 50 years, the News said, but only rediscovered the Batang Toru population during a series of field surveys in 1997.