Period: Spring 2018

Study site: Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, Indianapolis Zoo, IN, USA.

Conducted at: Indiana University Bloomington

Method - Collecting, analyzing and building on observational research data on the Orangutans in the zoo.

Over the course of an entire semester, a variety of spatiotemporal observational methods were incorporated to study Orangutan's behavior, the use of their habitat, and their relationships with each other. Eventually, the collected and analyzed data allowed to design a meaningful solution for the Orangutans. 

Instructors: Christena Nippert-Eng - (Course: Exercise in Direct Observations)


Data was often recorded in different ways from text only, spatial trails, distance mapping and detailed sketches of Orangutans. After a few weeks, I found a storyboard template to be useful for recording behavioral and spatiotemporal data. Storyboarded field notes, served as a mnemonic to the scenes and events as they happened spatiotemporally, similar to an animated sequence of images in a comic book, often helping to fill in missed notes and provided a simplified overview of how various behaviors, activities, and elements worked in conjunction with one another. Having a ready grid template helped in taking notes when appropriate. Each scene or data point could be noted separately 

exercise 3 final to print_Page_7
exercise 3 final to print_Page_1

Examples above show documentation and analysis of spatial relationships between female Orangutan (while circle) and her baby (solid fellow circle) through time. The horizontal lines show the levels of the observatory where they sat at a particular time. Overlap of the white and yellow circles suggest that the baby and mother were intimate or close to each other, such as hugging, sleeping on lap. The overview of the entire timeline of behaviors shows how the baby Orangutan most often enjoyed her independence but intermittently came back to her mother. 

Using observations from all the sessions, I concluded that the Orangutans could benefit from a more naturalistic environment, that gives them the agency to shape their habitat and their relationships with other Orangutans. I proposed an intervention that could fit the existing newly built infrastructure of the observatory and allow Orangutans to shape their surroundings. The design comprises of heavy duty bean bags that can be moved and shaped by Orangutans, similar to the way they shape their natural places of rest. These bean bags - Orangoforms also serve a purpose of shaping the current terrain which is far from their natural habitat. I imagine Orangoforms will be used by baby orangutans for play and to learn power dynamics. The design takes into consideration easy management of the infrastructure proposed and cost but primarily focus on benefits to Orangutans in the zoo observatory.