Tracking the Forest People

Tracking the Forest People

In the rainforests of Borneo, Erin Vogel '95 studies a group of orangutans in hopes of protecting this dwindling species.

By Adriana Nordin Manan '07 | Photos by Joram Berlowtiz, Jose Florez, Livia Haag, Tremain Jones, Adriano Lamiero, and Erin Vogel.
Illustrations by Robert P. Hernandez


At dawn in the rainforest of the Indonesian island of Borneo, an orangutan named Niko begins his day. Niko rustles about in his nest of leaves, then sets out through the trees in search of breakfast. Niko doesn’t know it, but far below, from the forest floor, someone is watching.

Erin Vogel ’95 slipped through the forest while it still was shrouded in darkness. With mosquitoes swarming around her and ambient sounds of the jungle as a soundtrack, Vogel has been waiting patiently for Niko to wake up. Her mission: to follow Niko and carefully document what he eats and how he spends his day. An anthropologist, Vogel studies the impact of social learning on diet selection of orangutans—how and what the great apes decide to eat.

Niko is not impressed.

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