My research is focused on orangutan behavior and biology both as a way to further our understanding of endangered great apes and to provide clues to human evolutionary history. My Gunung Palung Orangutan Project gathers information on many aspects of orangutan ecology, social behavior, development, physiology, cognition, and ranging behavior. In particular, I have focused on the reproductive physiology of male and female orangutans with methods I developed for non-invasive monitoring of steroids through urine sampling. These studies, including nutritional analyses of orangutan foods, have elucidated the influence of food availability on the sensitive reproductive system of the orangutan and have provided clues to the enigmatic patterns of male growth and development.

Orangutan researcher Cheryl Knott and field assistants keep a vigil observing dying female orangutan Kristen in the peat swamp forest, Borneo.

Orangutan researcher Cheryl Knott and field assistants observe female orangutan Kristen in the peat swamp forest of Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia (Borneo).


In addition to running my wild orangutan research project, I am also actively involved with trying to protect this endangered species and their rain forest habitat as the Executive Director of the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program. Our conservation strategies include educating people of all ages living around Gunung Palung National Park about the benefits of a healthy environment, raising awareness about orangutan conservation through extensive media campaigns, investigating of wildlife crime (especially cases involving orangutans), securing protection for forested areas outside of the National Park boundaries, promoting sustainable livelihoods as alternatives to illegal logging and hunting in the Park, and actively collaborating with the National Park authorities to protect this magnificent and highly biodiverse rainforest.

Dr. Cheryl D. Knott