How B.C. researchers forced to leave the jungle are still studying orangutans, and what they're seeing so far
VANCOUVER -- The COVID-19 pandemic has forced so many people to change how they live and work.
For one University of British Columbia researcher, it's meant trading time in a remote jungle for working from home in Canada.
She's been working to save an endangered species, and while she's had to come back to B.C. for now, her research will keep going thanks to some high-tech tools.
Jacqui Sunderland-Groves, with UBC's faculty of forestry, has been studying orangutans in a forest in Borneo.
It was there that she learned the pandemic had been declared, about six months ago.
"We were just starting our first collaborative study to investigate reintroduced orangutans; how are they faring," she told CTV News over the weekend.
But it turns out one of the ways they chose to observe the apes is allowing that research to continue, though they've since left the area.
"These cameras have been collecting data for us. We had no idea at the time that these would work in our favour so much," she said.
Those cameras were left on, and the same technology is being used by UBC researchers to monitor wildlife in B.C.'s provincial parks during the pandemic.
"They're just telling us a whole story that we wouldn't be able to piece together," Sunderland-Groves said.
Part of that story is that poachers appear to be taking advantage.
"Game guards have been scaled down, patrols scaled back down. They have found more illegal hunting going on," she said.
On the bright side, keeping distance from the subjects of their research is also protecting the orangutans.
"They can contract things like (tuberculosis), ebola, any kind of respiratory disease – and of course COVID-19 is a respiratory disease," Sunderland-Groves said.
With a report from CTV News Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim