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Prof. S.A. (Serge) Wich

Special Chair Conservation of the Great Apes
Faculty of Science
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics
Photographer: Jeroen Oerlemans

Visiting address
  • Science Park 904
Postal address
  • Postbus 94240
    1090 GE Amsterdam
Contact details
  • Biography and Research Interests

    I started my biology study at the University of Amsterdam, but moved to Utrecht University for my MSc on Sumatran orangutan feeding ecology, which I finished in 1995. After a brief study of bonobos in DRC, I returned to Sumatra to do a PhD on Thomas langur male long-distance calls, which I completed in 2002. A subsequent post-doc position at Utrecht University brought me to the island of Borneo where he continued to study orangutans. In 2005 I joined Great Ape Trust of Iowa where I worked as a scientist until 2009 when he joined the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program and the University of Zurich. In 2012 I joined Liverpool John Moores University (Liverpool, UK). In 2014 I joined the UvA as a honorary professor for the conservation of the great apes.

    My research interests are focused on primate behavioral ecology, tropical rain forest ecology and conservation of primates and their habitats. Research is strongly focused on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, but also on the island of Borneo. As part of my position at the UvA I am going to focus on fundamental and applied research on African apes (bonobos, chimpanzees, and gorillas) and Asian apes (orang-utans). At present the key species I study with my collaborators are the Sumatran and Bornean orangutan. Another field of study that I focus on is primate communication and especially what the meaning and function of calls is, whether they are learned and what the geographic variation of calls is. This has the ultimate aim of informing theories on how human speech evolved. In addition, I am collaborating (with Prof. Lian Pin Koh) to develop and use unmanned aerial vehicles (Conservation Drones) for conservation and ecological research. This project has drones flying at several locations around the world (Africa, Asia, and Europe).

  • Opportuntities for students

    Students with an interest in studying primates are welcome to contact me for potential MSc projects. Projects can range from desktop studies on existing datasets to fieldwork in Southeast Asia or Africa. There are also opportunities to study great apes in some of the zoos in the Netherlands. For projects abroad see:

  • Publications




    • Alexander, C., Korstjens, A. H., Hankinson, E., Usher, G., Harrison, N., Nowak, M. G., Abdullah, A., Wich, S. A., & Hill, R. A. (2018). Locating emergent trees in a tropical rainforest using data from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 72, 86-90. [details]
    • Ancrenaz, M., Barton, C., Riger, P., & Wich, S. (2018). Building relationships: how zoos and other partners can contribute to the conservation of wild orangutans Pongo spp. International Zoo Yearbook, 52(1), 164-172. [details]
    • Buchanan, G. M., Beresford, A. E., Hebblewhite, M., Escobedo, F. J., De Klerk, H. M., Donald, P. F., Escribano, P., Koh, L. P., Martínez-López, J., Pettorelli, N., Skidmore, A. K., Szantoi, Z., Tabor, K., Wegmann, M., & Wich, S. (2018). Free satellite data key to conservation. Science, 361(6398), 139-140.
    • Burke, C., Rashman, M. F., McAree, O., Hambrecht, L., Longmore, S. N., Piel, A. K., & Wich, S. A. (2018). Addressing environmental and atmospheric challenges for capturing high-precision thermal infrared data in the field of astro-ecology. Proceedings of SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering, 10709, [107091O]. [details]
    • Duffy, J. P., Cunliffe, A. M., DeBell, L., Sandbrook, C., Wich, S. A., Shutler, J. D., Myers-Smith, I. H., Varela, M. R., & Anderson, K. (2018). Location, location, location: considerations when using lightweight drones in challenging environments. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, 4(1), 7-19. [details]
    • Estrada, A., Garber, P. A., Mittermeier, R. A., Wich, S., Gouveia, S., Dobrovolski, R., Nekaris, K. A. I., Nijman, V., Rylands, A. B., Maisels, F., Williamson, E. A., Bicca-Marques, J., Fuentes, A., Jerusalinsky, L., Johnson, S., de Melo, F. R., Oliveira, L., Schwitzer, C., Roos, C., ... Setiawan, A. (2018). Primates in peril: The significance of Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for global primate conservation. PeerJ, 2018(6), [e4869].
    • Rashman, M. F., Steele, I. A., Burke, C., Longmore, S. N., & Wich, S. (2018). Adapting thermal-infrared technology and astronomical techniques for use in conservation biology. Proceedings of the SPIE, 10709, [107092S]. [details]
    • Slik, J. W. F., Franklin, J., Arroyo-Rodríguez, V., Field, R., Aguilar, S., Aguirre, N., Ahumada, J., Aiba, S-I., Alves, L. F., Anitha, K., Avella, A., Mora, F., Aymard C., G. A., Báez, S., Balvanera, P., Bastian, M. L., Bastin, J-F., Bellingham, P. J., van den Berg, E., ... Zang, R. (2018). Phylogenetic classification of the world's tropical forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(8), 1837-1842. [details]
    • Spehar, S. N., Sheil, D., Harrison, T., Louys, J., Ancrenaz, M., Marshall, A. J., ... Meijaard, E. (2018). Orangutans venture out of the rainforest and into the anthropocene. Science Advances, 4(6), [e1701422]. [details]
    • Strona, G., Stringer, S. D., Vieilledent, G., Szantoi, Z., Garcia-Ulloa, J., & Wich, S. A. (2018). Small room for compromise between oil palm cultivation and primate conservation in Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(35), 8811-8816. [details]
    • Thapa, G. J., Thapa, K., Thapa, R., Jnawali, S. R., Wich, S. A., Poudyal, L. P., & Karki, S. (2018). Counting crocodiles from the sky: monitoring the critically endangered gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) population with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems, 6(2), 71-82. [details]
    • Voigt, M., Wich, S. A., Ancrenaz, M., Meijaard, E., Abram, N., Banes, G. L., Campbell-Smith, G., d'Arcy, L. J., Delgado, R. A., Erman, A., Gaveau, D., Goossens, B., Heinicke, S., Houghton, M., Husson, S. J., Leiman, A., Sanchez, K. L., Makinuddin, N., Marshall, A. J., ... Kühl, H. S. (2018). Global Demand for Natural Resources Eliminated More Than 100,000 Bornean Orangutans. Current Biology, 28(5), 761-769, e1-e5. [details]
    • Wich, S. A., & Koh, L. P. (2018). Conservation drones: Mapping and monitoring biodiversity. Oxford University Press.
    • Wich, S. A., Koh, L. P., & Szantoi, Z. (2018). Classifying land cover on very high resolution drone-acquired orthomosaics. In New Geospatial Approaches to the Anthropological Sciences (pp. 121-135). The University of New Mexico Press.


    • Estrada, A., Garber, P. A., Rylands, A. B., Roos, C., Fernandez-Duque, E., Di Fiore, A., Nekaris, KA-I., Nijman, V., Heymann, E. W., Lambert, J. E., Rovero, F., Barelli, C., Setchell, J. M., Gillespie, T. R., Mittermeier, R. A., Verde Arregoitia, L., de Guinea, M., Gouveia, S., Dobrovolski, R., ... Li, B. (2017). Impending extinction crisis of the world’s primates: Why primates matter. Science Advances, 3(1), [e1600946]. [details]
    • Kretser, H., Stokes, E., Wich, S., Foran, D., & Montefiore, A. (2017). Technological Innovations Supporting Wildlife Crime Detection, Deterrence, and Enforcement. In M. L. Gore (Ed.), Conservation Criminology (pp. 157-178). Wiley Blackwell. [details]
    • Lameira, A. R., Vicente, R., Alexandre, A., Campbell-Smith, G., Knott, C., Wich, S., & Hardus, M. E. (2017). Proto-consonants were information-dense via identical bioacoustic tags to proto-vowels. Nature Human Behaviour, 1(2), [0044]. [details]
    • Longmore, S. N., Collins, R. P., Pfeifer, S., Fox, S. E., Mulero-Pázmány, M., Bezombes, F., Goodwin, A., De Juan Ovelar, M., Knapen, J. H., & Wich, S. A. (2017). Adapting astronomical source detection software to help detect animals in thermal images obtained by unmanned aerial systems. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 38(8-10), 2623-2638. [details]
    • Nater, A., Mattle-Greminger, M. P., Nurcahyo, A., Nowak, M. G., de Manuel, M., Desai, T., ... Krützen, M. (2017). Morphometric, Behavioral, and Genomic Evidence for a New Orangutan Species. Current Biology, 27(22), 3487-3498.e10. [details]
    • Santika, T., Ancrenaz, M., Wilson, K. A., Spehar, S., Abram, N., Banes, G. L., Campbell-Smith, G., Curran, L., D'Arcy, L., Delgado, R. A., Erman, A., Goossens, B., Hartanto, H., Houghton, M., Husson, S. J., Kühl, H. S., Lackman, I., Leiman, A., Llano Sanchez, K., ... Meijaard, E. (2017). First integrative trend analysis for a great ape species in Borneo. Scientific Reports, 7, [4839]. [details]
    • Szantoi, Z., Smith, S. E., Strona, G., Koh, L. P., & Wich, S. A. (2017). Mapping orangutan habitat and agricultural areas using Landsat OLI imagery augmented with unmanned aircraft system aerial photography. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 38(8-10), 2231-2245. [details]
    • Wich, S., Scott, L., & Koh, L. P. (2017). Wings for wildlife: The use of conservation drones, challenges and opportunities. In K. B. Sandvik, & M. G. Jumbert (Eds.), Drones for Good (pp. 153-167). (Emerging technologies, ethics and international affairs). Routledge. [details]



    • Hardus, M. E., Lameira, A. R., Wich, S. A., de Vries, H., Wahyudi, R., Shumaker, R. W., & Menken, S. B. J. (2015). Effect of repeated exposures and sociality on novel food acceptance and consumption by orangutans. Primates, 56(1), 21-27. [details]
    • Lameira, A. R., Hardus, M. E., Bartlett, A. M., Shumaker, R. W., Wich, S. A., & Menken, S. B. J. (2015). Speech-like rhythm in a voiced and voiceless orangutan call. PLoS ONE. [details]
    • Van Andel, A. C., Wich, S. A., Boesch, C., Koh, L. P., Robbins, M. M., Kelly, J., & Kuehl, H. S. (2015). Locating chimpanzee nests and identifying fruiting trees with an unmanned aerial vehicle. American Journal of Primatology, 77(10), 1122-1134. [details]
    • de Boer, B., Wich, S. A., Hardus, M. E., & Lameira, A. R. (2015). Acoustic models of orangutan hand-assisted alarm calls. Journal of Experimental Biology, 218(6), 907-914. [details]
    • van Gemert, J. C., Verschoor, C. R., Mettes, P., Epema, K., Koh, L. P., & Wich, S. (2015). Nature Conservation Drones for Automatic Localization and Counting of Animals. In L. Agapito, M. M. Bronstein, & C. Rother (Eds.), Computer Vision - ECCV 2014 Workshops: Zurich, Switzerland, September 6-7 and 12, 2014: proceedings (Vol. 1, pp. 255-270). (Lecture Notes in Computer Science ; Vol. 8925). Cham: Springer. [details]


    • Hardus, M. E., de Vries, H., Dellatore, D. F., Lameira, A. R., Menken, S. B. J., & Wich, S. A. (2013). Socioecological correlates of inter-individual variation in orangutan diets at Ketambe, Sumatra. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 67(3), 429-437. [details]
    • Lameira, A. R., Hardus, M. E., Nouwen, K. J. J. M., Topelberg, E., Delgado, R. A., Spruijt, B. M., ... Wich, S. A. (2013). Population-Specific Use of the Same Tool-Assisted Alarm Call between Two Wild Orangutan Populations (Pongopygmaeus wurmbii) Indicates Functional Arbitrariness. PLoS ONE, 8(7), [e69749]. [details]
    • Lameira, A. R., de Vries, H., Hardus, M. E., Hall, C. P. A., Mitra-Setia, T., Spruijt, B. M., ... Wich, S. A. (2013). Predator guild does not influence orangutan alarm call rates and combinations. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 67(3), 519-528. [details]



    • Burke, C., McWhirter, P. R., Veitch-Michaelis, J., McAree, O., Pointon, H. A. G., Wich, S., & Longmore, S. (2019). Requirements and limitations of thermal drones for effective search and rescue in marine and coastal areas. Drones, 3(4), [78].
    • Rafiq, K., Bryce, C. M., Rich, L. N., Coco, C., Miller, D. A. W., Meloro, C., Wich, S. A., McNutt, J. W., & Hayward, M. W. (2019). Tourist photographs as a scalable framework for wildlife monitoring in protected areas. Current Biology, 29(14), R681-R682.


    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    No known ancillary activities