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I read today in the news that villagers in Borneo were attacking refugee Orangutans. Why would they do this?

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In It’s Not Just Conflict That Motivates Killing of Orangutans by Davis et al. (2013), the authors identify number of conflict and non-conflict reasons reported in the study why orangutans were killed in a certain part of Indonesia:

Conflict reasons:

  • pest
  • fear/self-defence
  • paid or forced to kill
  • orangutans interrupted logging or forestry operations

Non-conflict reasons:

  • traditional medicine
  • food
  • to sell or keep young as pets
  • hobby/sport hunting
  • for other trade of animals or meat
  • killed accidentally or opportunistically while hunting other animals

The results from this survey are depicted in this graph:

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Obviously in this case they were not attacked for food. The impression I got from the article makes me think it was probably motivated by people viewing them as pests or as a threat/danger. It is almost certainly more of a social reason than a biological reason. However, in the absence of specific evidence, it is probably not helpful to speculate why this occurred.

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