Bastian, M. L., Glendinning, D. R., Reddy, A. J. et al. 2018. Nest location preferences in zoo-housed orangutans. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 207, 123-128.
Nest building is an advanced and complex activity that wild orangutans engage in, yet they do so on a daily basis and with potential safety consequences. Like their wild counterparts, zoo-housed orangutans also make nests when given adequate materials, yet comparatively little research has documented the nesting habits of captive orangutans, including potential social and environmental influences of nest site selections. We documented the night nesting behavior of six adult orangutans housed at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park (NZP), identifying preferred nest locations and proximity to conspecifics, comparing observed patterns to those reported in a nest behavior survey of orangutan facilities throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Survey results reveal that in addition to several universal patterns of nesting behaviors, as in the wild, the sharing of night nests by captive adult orangutans occurs only rarely (2 of 31 surveyed facilities). Data collected at NZP indicate that night nearest neighbor associations among nesting conspecifics may be a useful proxy for actual nearest neighbor data taken during daytime social interactions and may offer a more feasible alternative for determining social relationships among large groups of socially housed orangutans.