Assessments made easier: examining the use of a rating-based questionnaire to capture behavioral data in rehabilitant orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio)

Florence Rocque, Helene Chotard, Kim Bard, Jerome Micheletta, Augustine Tuuga, Sylvia Alsisto, Marina Davila-Ross

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Rehabilitation and release are commonly used for confiscated, surrendered, and rescued primates. To improve release efficacy it is important to generate accurate behavioral profiles of release candidates. Research on primates traditionally uses observer ratings to measure individual differences. This method is easily implemented, but its validity has been questioned. We evaluated whether observer ratings reflect behavioral data indicating forest adaptation in 18 free-ranging rehabilitant orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio). In 2017, we used a species-specific questionnaire to measure how often orangutans engaged in behaviors linked to living successfully in the wild (e.g., nest building) and the extent to which they express personality traits that may influence forest adaptation. We collected 11 months of observational data on 17 of the orangutans concurrently to validate the questionnaire items, and collected further questionnaire data for 16 of the individuals in 2019. We used regularized exploratory factor analysis (REFA) and parallel analysis to condense the ratings and determine that two factors could be reliably extracted. We conducted another REFA using the observational data, and calculated factor congruence coefficients following procrustean rotation. The first of the two factors represented forest skills and human aversion, and was congruent with observational data. The second factor reflected boldness, sociability, and exploration, and was not congruent with observational data. Ratings correlated significantly with observations for all five questionnaire items reflecting adaptation to forest life, and for three of seven items reflecting personality traits. We conclude that ratings can be a valid approach to obtain individual-based behavioral information reflecting forest adaptation in free-ranging rehabilitant orangutans, and may be particularly useful in summarizing behaviors relevant to forest adaptation that are otherwise challenging to gather in primates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-797
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Early online date4 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • rating methodology
  • individual differences
  • rehabilitation
  • forest adaptation


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