A young orangutan being kept in a sack was rescued recently by the Orangutan Information Centre ( OIC ), a conservation group working in Sumatra.
The rescue team was accompanied by staff from the Indonesian Forestry Ministry’s Gunung Leuser National Park office and Natural Resources Conservation Agency ( BKSDA ).
The orangutan, a male thought to be around 2-year-old, was being kept illegally by an oil palm plantation worker; they named him Kedaung after the hamlet where he was found.
The “owner” told the OIC rescue team that he found Kedaung on farmland next to Gunung Leuser National Park a month ago. The young orangutan had been attacked by a dog, and he had captured the wounded animal and kept him in his kitchen. Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered and are a protected species under Indonesian law, so it is completely illegal to kill, capture or harm an orangutan.
More and more orangutans are being pushed out of their natural habitat onto farmland in search of food as their rain forest homes have been destroyed, mainly for oil palm plantation development.
Many orangutans become stranded and are unable to return to the forests. As a result, we are finding many cases of orangutans being captured on farmland by plantation workers and opportunistic poachers.
Just a week ago, our team was involved in the rescue of another young male orangutan in East Aceh. This orangutan was being kept as a pet but had escaped from his cage about three months ago and had since been wandering around local farmland, unable to return to the forest and raiding local crops in order to find enough food to survive.
Both the orangutans are now in the care of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program ( SOCP ) at their quarantine facility near Medan.
A team comprising SOCP veterinarians and staff of the Indonesian Forestry Ministry’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency in Aceh ( BKSDA Aceh ) recently confiscated another two young orangutans that were being kept illegally, at two different locations in the village of Simpang Dua in Nagan Raya district, Aceh. SOCP reported that these orangutans were certainly captured in the nearby Tripa peat swamp forests, known internationally due to high-profile legal cases against palm oil companies operating illegally there.
Over the last year, our team has rescued 17 isolated orangutans from farmland, all of which have now been released into the Gunung Leuser National Park. We have also confiscated four orangutans that were being illegally kept as pets. These orangutans need an extended period of rehabilitation under the care of SOCP before they can be released back to the wild. Unfortunately, there has been no action taken by law enforcement agencies to prosecute the people involved in any of these cases.
The government must take action to enforce the law and prosecute people who keep orangutans as pets, in order to deter this illegal practice, which is undoubtedly linked to the rate of orangutan habitat loss for oil palm plantation expansion.
In Banda Aceh, two orangutans are being illegally kept in two amusement parks. Their living conditions are appalling, and one of them is chained around the neck, searching through garbage for food.
A case report has been sent to the local BKSDA authority to confiscate the orangutans, but until now no action has been taken by local authorities to evacuate the orangutans.